Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jacqui Smith and Contradictions, Plus Wimbledon Grumbling

"Who are you calling a dyke?"

Remember that ludicrous Jacqui Smith business from earlier this week, when the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom was stupid enough to suggest that Iran is safe for homosexuals? All they have to do, she more or less advised, is spend their lives hiding in the closet. Then they won't have to worry about being hanged or seeking asylum in the UK.

Well, Smith is again commenting on homophobia, only this time it's the kind that happens on her own soil. A Stonewall-commissioned report released on Thursday found that one in five gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Britain have been a victim of some kind of hate crime or homophobic incident since 2005, and that 3/4ths of them declined to file police reports about it. (The results of this poll have been called shocking, but I was immediately reminded of another survey about gay Brits, and have to say that if you're not willing to divulge your sexuality to a random census-taker, chances are you're not going to walk into a police station and say you were just assaulted or verbally harassed for being gay. You could argue that it isn't a fair correlation to make, as the Stonewall report obviously used self-identified gays and lesbians as their sample group; additionally, respondents cited perceived police indifference as a reason for not filing reports. But I think that taken together, the results of the surveys indicate a sizable percentage of gay men and women in the UK don't feel as comfortable standing up for themselves as they should.)

Curiously, given Smith's own indifference towards gays in Iran, she responded to the report swiftly and decisively, stating:

"In the 21st century no one in Britain should ever feel under threat of verbal or physical violence just because of their sexual orientation.

"We're determined that lesbian and gay people should have the confidence to report crimes to the police knowing that they will be taken seriously, the crime investigated and their privacy respected.

"Our key priorities are to increase reporting; increase offences brought to justice and to tackle repeat victimisation and hotspots."

All sentiments that are very nice and proper, but how about extending that sense of justice to people who are in danger of being executed because of their sexuality?

And while I'm complaining...

This is admittedly shallow -- inappropriate, some might say, given the seriousness of the subject matter we just dealt with -- but why does it seem as though ESPN and NBC, in their coverage of Wimbledon, conspired to keep me from ogling Dinara Safina's arms? She's out of the tournament now, having been ousted by Israel's Shahar Peer in a close three-setter earlier today, and what did NBC show instead? A Venus Williams match that's result was old news.

I'm demanding better treatment next year. You hear that, you programming bastards? I'm like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction: I will not be ignored. I don't care if Americans played earlier in the day, I want live tennis. Live! If you do not meet my demands, I will not watch the rest of your network's offerings. And if I'm already giving your shows the cold shoulder (sorry, NBC, but you know you suck), well ... I don't know. I'm sure I'll come up with better threats over the coming months.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Slow News Day

Rich Uncle Pennybags was good friends with Merv Griffin

Seemingly unperturbed by our crumbling national economy, gays will continue to buy their daily Starbucks and keep their Internet porn subscriptions current, in addition to purchasing luxury items like televisions the size of small countries, according to a new study conducted by MergeMedia Group. The group surveyed 500 Judy Garland-loving gay men and lesbians online (which means at least 30 of the respondents were mentally unbalanced heterosexuals or tech-savvy prison inmates) and found that a mere five percent felt "more vulnerable to a recession" than heterosexuals.

These surveys always strike me as kind of ridiculous because gays lie the way everyone lies: frequently, and especially about money. And especially on the Internet, as almost anyone who regularly scours and Craiglist for their M4M hookups could tell you. (How much do you want to bet that at least half of the guys who aren't worried about their financial futures are also "straight-acting" and packing eight inches?) Still, I found this part of the "Hurray for Gays and Their Gobs and Gobs of Money" press release interesting:
Industry estimates put the total buying power of American gays and lesbians at $780 billion for 2008, and a recent report by economist Lee Badgett and the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation and the Law at UCLA says gay buying power may reach $835 billion by 2011.
And that's not even counting the personal fortunes of Oprah Winfrey and Barry Diller. Put all of our money together and American gays are rich, filthy rich, yet our own government, which taxes us the same as they tax everyone else, still treats us like second-class citizens. Oh, well. At least we have high-definition TVs.

In happier news...

You know how sometimes when oafish actors are asked stupid questions about playing gay characters, it's a recipe for disaster that results in defensive answers like "Do you have to be a murderer to play a murderer?" Gael Garcia Bernal has already demonstrated that he's not one of those jackasses, having observed with some bewilderment that he's more likely to be asked whether it's hard to play gay than if it's hard to play a murderer (he also vocally supported the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Mexico), and now he's at it again, making waves in the blogosphere for referring to his gay roles as "cool" and elaborating:
"I don't see what all the fuss is about playing gay characters. When I did Y Tu Mama Tambien, I was asked, 'Don't you worry about what people will say to you in the street?' It seemed like it was such a huge deal.

"Why would it be an issue for me? I think it is a very American thing. In Mexico, no one has given me any shit for playing gay roles, for playing a transvestite, whatever. They don't confuse the actor with the role. I mean, they don't think Al Pacino's a cop!"

Finally, someone equates us with a character who is on the right side of the law.

And in granola news...

Actresses Emily Deschanel, Daniela Sea and Jorja Fox (guess she wasn't in Japan after all) want you to stop feasting on animal carcasses and go green. I suggest they band together and present some kind of eco-friendly workshop at this summer's Michfest, because massive hilarity would almost certainly ensue.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Anti-Tuxedo Prejudice in the Tennis Community

Color me outraged! Maria Sharapova, who indulged her love of menswear by dressing in a tuxedo top and shorts at this year's Wimbledon, got her ass kicked by Alla Kudryavtseva today. (If her name is unfamiliar, it's because Kudryavtseva generally sucks.) The final score was so awful that I can't bring myself to type it here, but that's not the source of my indignation. What has me all riled up* is what Kudryavtseva said when asked what propelled her to victory: "I don't like her outfit. It was one of the motivations to beat her."

C'mon, Kudryavtseva! You have to give Sharapova some credit for making a bit of a Marlene Dietrich-like, Katharine Hepburn-esque fashion statement at Wimbledon. (For those of you who don't watch tennis, even the tacky British newspaper The Sun, which initially criticized Sharapova's tux, later apologized for their rush to judgment. Check out the third picture in the slideshow if you want to see why I think her getup was altogether badass.) All the dress-wearing gets boring to watch sometimes, and I encourage Sharapova's fellow WTA player to change things up every now and then, just as I encourage the men of the ATP to consider a little on court cross-dressing of their own. 'Cause you have to admit, Rafael Nadal would look handsome in a skirt.

* Maybe "riled up" wasn't all that accurate. Mildly annoyed would be a more apt description, and even that was offset by Kudryavtseva adding, "She's brave enough to experiment. Sometimes she has good ones, sometimes not. That's my personal opinion. Maybe someone will tell me I dress terribly."

But I wanted to post something today, and it was either this or complain about Sarah Bird's recent 'blah blah gay son blah blah stereotypes blah supposed satire' monstrosity at Problem was, I couldn't make it past the second or third paragraph of the Bird whatsit, so all I could honestly say about it would be this: The way A.O. Scott felt about The Love Guru -- in his words, "an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again" -- that's how I feel about Bird's strenuously unfunny piece.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Barbara Stanwyck vs. Judith Anderson

If you've always wanted to see Barbara Stanwyck face off against Judith Anderson (it was the child actress playing Stanwyck's character who sent Anderson tumbling down the staircase in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers), the Criterion Collection is now giving you the chance to do just that: today they release Anthony Mann's The Furies on DVD.

Made in 1950, it was only Mann's second western (he'd go on to direct many more), and his background in film noir is wonderfully apparent throughout: This is one of the most shadowy westerns ever made. It's also one of the most melodramatic, which is why the casting is pitch-perfect.

Stanwyck plays Vance, the rather passionate daughter of cattle baron T.C. Jeffords (Walter Huston, in what would be his final film), and given the bond the two of them share, it wouldn't be far-fetched to call this Electra: The Western. When Vance acquires a love interest in the form of Wendell Corey, T.C. can't help but meddle; what Vance does when her father brings Judith Anderson home goes far past meddling.

To describe The Furies as psychosexual is a bit like calling Cries & Whispers depressing -- it doesn't really tell you the half of it. Think of it as a kind of precursor to Johnny Guitar, the most gleefully perverse of all westerns, but with incest instead of lesbianism. (And before I get my wrist slapped for using the words lesbian and perverse in the same sentence, let me point out that I'm not the one who wrote the fucking movies. I could never write a western unless horses were suddenly equipped with air conditioning.) And with high-quality acting from Huston, Stanwyck and Anderson, none of whom lumber in front of the camera with a dazed "WTF?" look in their eyes a la Sterling Hayden.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Iran is for (Discreet) Lovers, and Other Bullshit

"I loved your work in Top Gun."

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, women in the Army and Air Force are being kicked out in record numbers under "don't ask, don't tell." From the Times:
While women make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20 percent of Air Force personnel are women, 49 percent of its discharges under the policy last year were women.
As Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of the SLDN, notes, "Women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, so to find they represent nearly 50 percent of Army and Air Force discharges under 'don't ask, don't tell' is shocking."

The Pentagon hasn't offered an explanation for the increase in discharges of lesbian military personnel, but I have to wonder: could this be the start of the Tasha effect? If there is yet another significant spike in the number of discharges following this most recent season of The L Word, the one that saw Tasha on trial for "homosexual conduct" (I always wondered, was she suspected of being a lesbian because of her relationship with Alice, or was it something else, like she was spotted swilling beer on the couch with her legs spread Al Bundy style while watching a football game?), then we might know if there's anything to my theory. Because I strongly suspect that the bigwigs in charge of gay military witch hunts are way into The L Word, and are probably so self-conscious about it that they thought the best way to deflect attention from their fanaticism would be to root out all the lesbians around them.

Another of my crackpot theories, while we're on the subject of enlisted gays and The L Word, is that more lesbians are probably joining the military now than ever because of the fictional character of Tasha Williams. Normally I'm not the type of person who'd ever consider joining the Army (I'm more John Dall than John Wayne), but if I thought it was possible I'd meet someone who looks like Rose Rollins in basic training, I might be persuaded.

In other news...

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, thinks gay and lesbian asylum-seekers are perfectly safe in Iran, as long as they're discreet. It's a position that makes a lot of sense ... if you're completely insane. My favorite part of The Independent's article on Smith's beliefs is this:
Gay campaign groups estimate that 4,000 Iranians have been executed because of their sexuality since the late 1970s. Ms Smith suggests it is far fewer.
Because if only a few of us, say 40 instead of 4,000, have been hanged in Iran for being gay, who cares? It doesn't mean the country is unsafe for homosexuals or anything. As recently as last year, you had Iranian MP Mohsen Yahyavi telling British MPs that gays should be tortured, killed, or tortured and killed, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisting to American college students that there are no gays in Iran, but I'm sure they were just joshing about that. Surely, by "torture and kill," Yahyavi really meant "love and embrace, and not in a gruesome, torture-y, kill 'em all way."

But wait, there's more...

Also in The Independent, 2008's Pink List, a ranking of the 101 most influential UK-based LGBT people of the year, was unveiled yesterday. The top spot went to journalist Evan Davis, while last year's #1, TV writer Russell T Davies (who was profiled in last weekend's New York Times), slipped to #2. Other names on the list include all the usual suspects: Elton John, Ian McKellen, Sarah Waters, Stephen Fry, Rupert Everett, Deborah Warner, Jeanette Winterson, Fiona Shaw and Saffron Burrows. (Warner and Winterson, you might note, are partners, while Shaw, a frequent collaborator of Warner's, has been linked to Burrows since they starred in Warner's stage adaptation of Winterson's The PowerBook in 2002. Forget about the brilliance of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; Jeanette Winterson should have won the Whitbread Prize, a Nobel Prize, and probably a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for engineering all of that.) New entries on the list include Samantha Fox and Dan Gillespie, lead singer of The Feeling. I think that means it's time for more British notables to come out.

And finally...

Oy vey! Anti-gay protesters picketed the Jewish wedding of gay rights pioneers Robin Tyler and Diane Olson in California last week, and instead of throwing rice at the happy couple, they shouted things like "Jesus Saves." Perhaps more offensively, Tyler writes, they were shabbily attired. That's certainly the gay way of looking at things, isn't it?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


"'Sup, bitches?"

Wimbledon starts in just under eight hours, and questions about the tournament abound: Will the swashbuckling Rafael Nadal make it to the finals again? Will Ana Ivanović continue to pump her fists every two seconds? Will Novak Djoković's family continue to annoy me from the stands? And perhaps most importantly, what will Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer wear? We'll find out soon enough, provided there aren't any rain delays on Monday. American viewers can look up TV scheduling information here, and don't forget that ESPN 360 will stream 250 hours of live coverage and press conferences as well.

Related: Official Wimbledon website

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Valerie Singelton, Despite Lady Golfer Hair, Is Not a Lesbian

"Just because a woman owns all eight seasons of Bad Girls..."

You can file this one under breaking news: Valerie Singelton, the beloved British TV and radio host, wants you to know she likes guys. A lot. She loves penis the way Mel Gibson hates Jews. She's had affairs with men, lots of men, and that talk you heard about her having a relationship with Joan Armatrading thirty years ago? A bunch of bollocks. All she ever did was interview her, and though she doesn't specify, it sounds like they had their clothes on the whole time and kept their hands to themselves.

Still, the rumor, which Singelton thought was so silly that it would eventually go away on its own, settled in like an unwelcome houseguest -- like Monty Woolley in The Man Who Came to Dinner, if you will -- making Valerie self-conscious to the point of public rudeness. As she tells The Daily Mail's Peter Robertson:
"Many years later, I was approached by Joan as I was leaving Broadcasting House after presenting PM. She said: 'Hello Val, do you remember me? I'm Joan Armatrading.'

"I thought: 'Oh my God, I can't be seen talking to her in the middle of the BBC reception,' so I rudely rushed past her shouting: 'Sorry, but I can't stop as I'm late for the theatre.'

"She must have thought me very abrupt. Apologies, Joan."

Misconceptions about her sexuality, she claims, plagued her to the point that bartenders and receptionists she'd never met before just assumed she was a lesbian:
"Every single friend of mine has at some point had to deny the rumour. And, even when there's a denial, you get reactions such as: 'There's no smoke without fire.'

"It really is rubbish. I'm very honest and if I were that way inclined I'd have said so.

"The truth is I have always been the complete opposite of gay."
And just in case there is any lingering confusion about her sexuality following those remarks, Singelton proceeds to list men she's found attractive (including "gorgeous older cousins"), men she's made out with (including a young Albert Finney) and men she's had relationships with (a married coworker and a TV broadcaster who later paid for her to have an abortion).

It must be a real pain in the ass to have everyone think you're gay when you're not. I know that from the time I was born it was just assumed I was heterosexual, and that got rather tedious after awhile. Coming out hardly seemed to help anything; it just resulted in classmates and relatives asking "Are you sure?"

"Are you sure?", for the record, is what you ask when someone suggests doing something crazy, like buying an SUV or seeing the new Tim Allen movie. It is not what you ask when someone tells you they're gay. (We're not always sure how to spend our movie-going dollars; more often than not, we're sure what our genitals respond to.) And once you're fully out of the closet, that thing, that having to declare yourself, never really goes away. You still meet new people almost every day who simply take it for granted that you're heterosexual.

The only way to avoid having to constantly come out, I think, is to permanently wear a sandwich board that states, in bold letters, "I'm Gay," and even then you'd have illiterates and people who left their glasses at home to deal with. But Valerie Singelton, she has access that most of us don't. She can take to the pages of publications as noxious but compulsively readable as The Daily Mail to assure the public of her heterosexuality, even if the end result seems oddly Onion-esque.

Related: Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Obligatory Usher Post

Usher: Smokes large phallic objects, then performs in Broadway's Chicago

When MediaTakeOut reported earlier this week that Usher, the abs-of-steel-having singer and actor, was a homophobic twit, I didn't pay too much attention to it. It didn't seem possible that he could really be that stupid. He's been in show business for a very long time; surely he must know, and be friends with, gay people. But several days have passed and, as far as I can tell, no one in Usher's camp has stepped forward to refute these quotes from Vibe magazine:
"It can never be bad to have a foundation as a man - a black man - in a time when women are dying for men. Women have started to become lovers of each other as a result of not having enough men.

"Are you not studying the stories? Wake up! Black love is a good thing."
While I agree with Usher that black love is a good thing (though I'm not sure he'd have phrased it quite like that had he known it would make him sound like Martha Stewart), I don't know what stories he's talking about. Perhaps there's more to the quote that the full article will explain. And I'm not sure what he means by having a foundation as a man. Is he talking about cosmetics?

On second reading, what really struck me about Usher's remarks was how they sort of echoed sentiments expressed in a now-infamous sermon delivered by Reverend Willie "Membranes" Wilson of the Union Temple Baptist Church in Washington, DC in 2005. (Warning: Link goes to a YouTube page with very explicit audio content.)

Wilson had a lot to say about homosexuality, particularly gay sex (what is it about religious types that they can't stop thinking about hot, sweaty, naked man-sex and toy-inclusive girl-girl action?) and his straight son's difficulty in finding a prom date who doesn't TiVo The L Word. But mostly he rails against the social ills he thinks are driving women to lesbianism, which he apparently imagines is sweeping the nation like a dance craze. At one point he tells his congregation that it's "about to take over our community." Later, he shouts "It's destroying us!"

Lest anyone get the wrong impression of him, Wilson takes pains to clarify that he's in no way a bigot, saying, "I ain't homophobic, because everyone in here got something wrong with 'em." While there's no way of knowing from those Vibe quotes just how kooky Usher is about the gay thing, I have to say I'm disappointed in him. I thought he had something real with Ellen, but if he possibly thinks she's only with Portia because of a shortage of good men (it's unclear from the MediaTakeOut blurb whether he attributes lesbianism among white women to other factors), that's some crazy shit. Maybe what he meant to suggest is that women are becoming lovers of other women because the bees are disappearing. At least a bee mention would indicate he's living in 2008 instead of 1950.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Speaking of Cyd Charisse...

Cyd Charisse, as everyone who regularly goes anywhere on the Internet already knows, died today at the age of 86. I have nothing insightful to say about her career. All things considered, I have nothing insightful to say about anything. But I did happen to catch her in East Side, West Side, a Mervyn LeRoy melodrama, a few months ago when it came out on DVD, and I have an observation to share with you bunch of homosexuals.

First, the set-up. The movie is a pretty typical Barbara Stanwyck vehicle: Stanwyck's husband, played by James Mason, is cheating on her with Ava Gardner. That doesn't make Stanwyck happy. Then Van Heflin comes to town, and that does make her happy. (You've got to hand it to Heflin: All he ever really did was wear a suit and act like a smart-ass, but in every other movie released in the 1940s attractive women were dying to fuck him.) Problem is, he's dating Charisse, which leads to some brief tension between her character and Stanwyck's.

Big deal, I know: Stanwyck had tension with everyone in her movies. Her characters were nothing if not tense. What's different about her big scene with Charisse in East Side, West Side is that she doesn't seem to be impatiently waiting to snap her next line; she seems to be considering, with some appreciation, the hotness of her younger costar. There was, for the record, a lot of hotness to consider.

Isn't that a heartwarming remembrance? Yeah, well, I don't have a lot to say about her -- but I think Barbara Stanwyck would've hit it. I feel very classy right now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Straight Version of Dyke Drama

Jessica Stein: not so prudish after all

... As told by Ann Bauer in tomorrow's Salon. (Bet you didn't know I could time travel like that.) I have to say I'm underwhelmed. I mean, on top of everything else, Henry & June isn't one of Philip Kaufman's better films.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Think I'm in Love with Miranda Richardson

"This website isn't white enough."

Okay, so it's a crush that isn't anything new. I first fell for Richardson when I was 10 years old and she hosted Saturday Night Live. It was her sketch with Phil Hartman, the one where she's an actress who thinks of her father's horrific death when she has to film crying scenes ("His head was in my lap!"), that did me in. I grew up wanting to write something funny for her to say.

It would be years before I saw her in anything again, and even then it was just the "New Best Friend" episode of Absolutely Fabulous. All I really knew about Richardson was that she starred in movies my parents wouldn't let me see, so I became determined to watch The Crying Game and Damage as soon as I was old enough to rent R-rated movies. She is wickedly funny in the former as an IRA soldier who, if she had any martial arts training, would fit in perfectly with the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and her meltdown as a grieving mother in the latter is powerful enough to make you forget all the overwrought naked calisthenic exercises Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche had spent the previous 90 minutes engaged in.

Her most acclaimed performance came early in her career, in Mike Newell's Dance with a Stranger, but I never felt that was an adequately passionate telling of the Ruth Ellis/David Blakely affair. Though Richardson took great care to show Ellis as a real woman and not a one-dimensional tabloid villainess, she generated about as much heat with Rupert Everett as Jodie Foster did with Matthew McConaughey in Contact. It was her openhearted take on another demonized woman, Vivienne Haigh-Wood, that resulted in what remains her most indelible performance.

Tom & Viv is a mostly meandering portrait of T. S. Eliot's doomed marriage to the famously erratic Haigh-Wood, who suffered from what used to be called "women's troubles" or "moral insanity," and it doesn't judge Eliot (or Vivienne's brother Maurice) harshly enough. One scene actually finds Eliot pressing his head to the chest of an Anglican bishop for comfort, a single tear rolling down his cheek. Sentimental music plays as he chokes out, "I'm married to a woman that I love, but everything we do together falls apart. I crave companionship but I am completely alone." Only briefly, near the very end of the movie, does anyone stop to consider how alone Vivienne must have felt.

A role as manic as Vivienne might seem like an open invitation to overact (and it has been suggested by more than one critic that Richardson is prone to scenery-chewing), but Richardson's work in Tom & Viv was subtle and deeply intelligent despite the broad dramatic strokes of the screenplay. She showed her wildly misunderstood character far more tenderness and respect than the filmmakers could be bothered to summon, and the result was one of the most thoughtful, underrated movie performances of the 1990s.

But enough of my mindless film-geek prattle. This wasn't supposed to be about any of that, it was supposed to be about a Q&A Richardson did with The Guardian this weekend and how her responses to their mini-interrogation only add to her already considerable crushworthiness. I think you'll agree that on paper we'd make a fantastic couple. Look at all the things we have in common:
  • She likes Arcade Fire, I like Arcade Fire. They're right here on my iPod, nestled snugly between Annie Lennox and Arctic Monkeys. (Don't give me any shit about the Arctic Monkeys, people. How many songs have you ever heard that contain references to both Duran Duran and Shakespeare?)
  • South Park keeps her awake at night, and rarely a week goes by that I don't find myself singing "Uncle Fucka" while doing the dishes or feeding my cat.
  • She's fond of the word "enfilade," I know how to spell the world "enfilade."
  • She hates Mugabe, I hate Mugabe. Most people hate Mugabe, but Mugabe's fun to type and that's why I put it here. See? Mugabe, Mugabe, Mugabe.
  • She'd want to be played by Peter Lorre or Eddie Izzard in a movie of her life. How cool is that? I've often thought that Peter Lorre would make an excellent me in a movie of my life, seeing as we're both diminutive Jews with morphine addictions. (Of course, I'd also settle for Edward G. Robinson. I've never smoked cigars or run an underground crime syndicate, but he would've found a way to make it work anyway.) As for Eddie Izzard -- who is also on my iPod, right between Eddie Floyd and Edwin Starr -- he looks hotter in a dress than I do, so I'd just as soon he play my love interest. Or, you know, if the movie is really realistic and shows me reading Patricia Highsmith novels instead of going on dates, he could always play my mom, regularly probing me about my personal life and despairing that if I don't get my act together he'll never be a grandmother.
Of course, "on paper" means nothing. On paper I'm an art collector (I own a few vintage Jean-Pierre Melville movie posters), an expert skier (I've walked down icy hills once or twice without falling) and a skilled jazz pianist (I enjoy listening to Thelonious Monk). Still, I think the next time Miranda Richardson visits the United States she should totally look me up. My Peter Lorre and her Eddie Izzard could do things together that Goebbels would've only dreamed of putting in a Nazi propaganda film about degeneracy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lesbians, Check Your Windows

From the department of creepiness comes this ABC News story about Rosanne Strott and Emily Niland, two Massachusetts College of Art and Design students who were filmed "during an intimate encounter without their knowledge" by David Cunha and David Siemiesz, creeps from a nearby dormitory. Cunha and Siemiesz then uploaded the video to the Internet, where it made the rounds for several months before being brought to the attention of Strott and Niland, who are now pursuing legal action against the voyeurs and would like to see them expelled from the Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Siemiesz admits that recording them felt "kind of wrong," but claims "We didn't understand the severity of the situation when we were taping it"; Wentworth is currently conducting its own investigation of the incident. Says Niland:
"Blinds open or not, I have nothing to be ashamed about. I might be embarrassed, I might feel violated, but I have nothing to be ashamed about. They are the ones who have something to be ashamed of."
Unsurprisingly, many of the moronic reader comments that follow the story go like this:
"This looks like they need to buy some curtains. Just because they are gay doesn't mean they can do it in public and if they are able to been see from the out side then it is public."
Never mind the pesky fact that nobody was doing anything in public, or that no one is asking for special treatment on the basis of their sexuality: Any opportunity to complain about "the gays" is an opportunity that must be seized.

What the ABC News article leaves out, but the Boston Herald has already covered, is Strott's comment that the men can be heard "remarking on her body and chanting antigay slurs" as they taped the encounter. In the same article, a just-not-getting-it Siemiesz maintains that, "I didn't feel like a creep. I didn't feel like a Peeping Tom. I felt like this type of thing happens a lot."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Politician Has Another Gay Kid

The 18-year-old daughter of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came out in Bay Windows, a New England-based GLBT newspaper, today. Katherine Patrick, who will attend Smith College in the fall, was interviewed with her father, a longtime champion of gay rights, and her mother, Diane. Rather adorably, the governor got teary-eyed when his daughter praised his successful effort to defeat a proposed anti-gay marriage amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution in 2007. Katherine also noted, of her initial coming out to her parents, that "the first thing my dad did was, [he] wrapped me in a bear hug and said, 'Well, we love you no matter what.' " Which reminds me of my own coming out, if I might digress.

It was a muggy night in August, just weeks before my senior year of high school was about to start,
and I was alone with my parents. (That isn't something that happens very often when you have three siblings.) I'm not sure how the conversation came about, just that I was very nervous. I'm afraid it might have gone something like this:
Mom: So, how 'bout that heat?

Dad: Yeah, it's really something.

Me: I'm gay! I'm a homosexual! I like girls!
Because sometimes, when I'm anxious about something, I have trouble following conversations. (I also have trouble following conversations even when I'm not anxious about anything, but that's not your problem now, is it?) If memory serves, it was quiet for a while. I remember my face feeling red, which tends to happen anytime I talk in front of anybody, and my parents exchanging one of those very parental glances, the kind that lets you know they've secretly been discussing this very subject behind your back for weeks or months or possibly years. Then my dad slowly extended his hand, not to pull me into an emotional embrace but to demand the $50 he bet my mom that I was a big queer.

Anyway, read the interview with the Patrick family. They all sound very cool.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can Straight Couples Learn from Gays?

As the state of California prepares to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples next week, a piece in today's New York Times examines "the egalitarian nature" of same-sex relationships.

When asked to comment on whether they think it's true that same-sex couples "fight more fairly" and are better at dividing household chores than their heterosexual counterparts, my parents got into a vicious argument that started with my father saying "There's no such thing as a fair fight with your mother," and continued with my mom snapping, "Your father would have to know what chores are before he tried doing any."

Realizing that thirty years' worth of grievances were about to be rehashed in clinical detail for the 3,758th time, I hightailed it out of there without asking any follow-up questions. Good times!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Alec Baldwin's Presidential Eff, Marry, Kill

"I'm thinking new window treatments for the Lincoln Bedroom."

Asked who he'd "boff, marry or kill" between Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama, Alec Baldwin (the talented Baldwin, the Baldwin nine out of ten dentists recommend) answered that he'd sleep with Hillary and wed the senator from Illinois. Baldwin told The Observer:
"Barack would just be my long-term companion, as they say. I'd have to have sex with a woman because I'm not gay. I wouldn't want to have sex with Barack Obama or McCain. Obama's wife perhaps. Anybody's wife - Bush's wife, McCain's wife, but no men - not even operating the video camera."
As for McCain, Baldwin isn't willing to kill him off:
"Maybe I'd lead him out into the woods and leave him there, and I'd come back and tell you that I'd killed him. But I'd lie, I wouldn't really kill him. And knowing McCain, knowing his past in Vietnam, he'd make it back, he'd survive."
You know, as much as I like Michelle Obama (and I've kind of loved her since reading this New Yorker profile back in March) I'm intrigued by the idea of Baldwin as First Spouse. I imagine him promoting literacy to schoolchildren à la Laura Bush, but instead of sitting there all glassy-eyed and quiet he'd pound on desks and say things like, "We're adding a little something to this month's reading contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired." It would really inspire children to pick up books, I think. Kids love bland, boxy luxury vehicles and free cutlery.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Perez Hilton and Selective Outing

Bass originally approached People about coming out as Anne Murray.

In a vlog entry posted on his website yesterday, gossip guru Perez Hilton made some observations about the way the media treats the practice of outing queer celebrities that I thought bore repeating. If you want to watch the video yourself, the topic comes up around the 1:52 mark. If you'd rather read his remarks, I've transcribed them below:
"The last thing I wanted to talk about today was something that I've really been thinking about recently. You know, a couple years ago I got so much crap, and I still get so much crap from people and the media for quote-unquote 'outing' celebrities. Two years ago, I reported about Lance Bass's secret relationship with his then-boyfriend, douchebag Reichen. I reported on the trips they would take together, I reported on the dates they would go on, I reported on the fights they would get into. All of this before Lance Bass officially came out of the closet -- and helped his career by coming out, because he had no career before he came out. Anywho, I got criticized so much for that, for reporting what I knew to be true. Well, I find it really interesting that the same thing is happening now, only it's the mainstream media doing the outing. The mainstream media nowadays is reporting about Samantha Ronson's alleged, reported lesbian relationship with Lindsay Lohan. And no one is calling them out on the outing. They're not even using the word outing, they're using the word reporting.
"I don't know if that makes me upset or it makes me happy, because I think actually it makes me happy that they're treating them the same, and it's to me a sign of equality. But also maybe it's not. Maybe it's a sign of inequality. Maybe gay men and lesbians or bisexual women or Lindsay Lohan is held to different standards. Maybe it's okay for Lindsay to be experimenting but for a guy, it could potentially be damaging to his career. Like everybody still freaks out when I say Wentworth Miller is gay. Well, Wentworth Miller, star of Prison Break, is a homosexual. Yes, Wentworth Miller likes to suck cock. And there's nothing wrong with that. Lindsay Lohan reportedly loves to eat pussy, and there's nothing wrong with that, either. What's so interesting is even a 'safe' media outlet like People magazine who loves to play it safe reported in their most recent issue that Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan are, quote, 'definitely together.' People magazine is saying that Lindsay and Samantha are 'definitely together.' It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that 'definitely together' means they're in a relationship, they're dating. People magazine outed Lindsay Lohan. How come nobody is calling them out on it? I don't know. Or should they, should they not? Is the fact that no one is calling them out on it a good thing? I don't know."
I'm not going to write a treatise on the ethics of outing, or what constitutes an outing, or anything like that. For one thing, I need to conserve my energy since I have a long day of tennis-viewing ahead of me. (It really wears you out watching other people run around like that.) For another, I'm lazy even when not in energy conservation mode. But I will suggest that celebrities like Bass and Lohan effectively out themselves when they don't attempt to hide their same-sex relationships, which is why I take exception to the argument favored by Hilton's critics that his so-called outing campaigns are tantamount to some kind of a gay witch hunt.

And to briefly touch on Hilton's question of whether there's a gender-driven double standard at work in how the media goes about outing celebrities, I think he's right to a certain (possibly large) extent. However, it's reductive to simply call it a discomfort-with-male-sexuality issue. In reality, there are all kinds of gender politics at work, from the way society has a tendency to be utterly dismissive of lesbianism and female bisexuality to the way celebrity-obsessed magazines and tabloid TV shows so aggressively exploit women in general and young women like Lohan in particular.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jena Malone on Her Two Moms

Yeah, I'm not really sure how to caption this.

Jena Malone, a talented actress whose career Evan Rachel Wood seems to have stolen (or maybe not -- would Malone have agreed to star in something as crappy as The Life Before Her Eyes?), has always been candid about having been raised in a Heather Has Two Mommies arrangement. Still, it was nice to read this in her new interview with The Independent:
"I was raised by two mums who were lovers. When I was younger it wasn't anything that was abnormal. I had two mums and for me that was really exciting because when I was younger most people seemed to like their mum more than their dad so I'd be like, 'Ha, I've got two of them!' And I feel I got a lot of love, respect and acceptance from them. I had a really healthy normal relationship with my parents."
Malone also tells reporter Lesley O'Toole that she takes pictures of her mothers, her sister and her father with her when she travels. It is unclear whether she packs photos of Mandy Moore's breasts as well.

Steve Martin's Gay Affair Revisited

No, I'm not talking about the time he spent with Anne Heche. I'm talking about his romantic weekend getaway with David Letterman. I'd forgotten all about this video Martin crafted for The Late Show until last night, when I stumbled across it on YouTube. This is why I love Steve Martin. Well, this and Pennies from Heaven. And also for the scene in The Man with Two Brains where he tussles with Kathleen Turner and she gasps, "My balls!" (Why didn't Preston Sturges have Barbara Stanwyck do that?) No one but Martin could get the curmudgeonly Letterman to act as goofy as this.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dissecting "Daphne"

Janet McTeer and Geraldine Somerville in a scene from Daphne

Last year, when the BBC announced plans to mark the centenary of Daphne du Maurier's birth by unveiling a new telefilm about her life, the dorkier among us grew excited. The film would take its basis from Margaret Forster's authorized biography of the writer, which meant du Maurier's bisexuality wouldn't be glossed over. In fact, Forster's revelations about du Maurier's affair with the actress Gertrude Lawrence and her unrequited love for Ellen Doubleday would form the basis of the movie.

Could Daphne be the next Portrait of a Marriage, we wondered? It had been 17 years since that groundbreaking BBC miniseries about Vita Sackville-West's turbulent affair with Violet Trefusis first aired, and it remained unsurpassed in both daring and quality. Word that Janet McTeer, who starred as Sackville-West in Portrait, would play Lawrence in Daphne only added to the anticipation. Last week, a year after it premiered in the UK, Daphne was released on DVD in the United States by BBC Warner. Was it worth the wait?

As it turns out, Daphne is no Portrait of a Marriage. It isn't even Portrait of a Half-Baked Extramarital Affair. If you had to describe it as a portrait of anything, the word disappointment would come to mind. The problem isn't the apparently non-existent budget (though you'll notice how few sets are used and how rickety-looking and sparsely decorated they are), or even the uninspired direction by Clare Beavan. The problem is the screenplay (credited to Amy Jenkins), which is so structurally unsound that it's a wonder the principal actors made it through entire scenes without being struck by falling debris.

Daphne is a mess from its choppy opening moments, which rather turgidly attempt to establish its heroine's inner turmoil while setting the framework for the extended flashbacks that contain the bulk of the story. The year is 1952, and Daphne du Maurier (who is played by Geraldine Somerville; if you're a Harry Potter fanatic, you know her as Lily Potter, and if you're a fan of the original Cracker, you know her as the sharp-tongued Penhaligon) is standing in the rain outside the sprawling Cornwall estate she shares with her husband, Tommy, and their children, waiting for the postman. He brings her a letter that causes her obvious distress; while this is going on, Tommy is inside leafing through private photographs that show his wife in bed with a woman we'll eventually recognize as Gertrude Lawrence. His expression is one of slight surprise, with a touch of, "Well, it could be worse. She could've posted them on MySpace."

In the first of many essentially pointless scenes, Daphne enters the room to announce "She's dead," before heading back outside, into the storm. She cries as she stands at the edge of a cliff, watching the waves crash below her. Curiously, she does this only long enough for the title of the film to appear over the water. Then it's off to her writing shack, where she starts to compose a lengthy letter, the contents of which she'll share via voice-over for the next 90 minutes or so. She reminisces about a period of her life that started seven years earlier, when Tommy returned from the war. Their awkward, kiss-free reunion is cut short by news that Daphne is being sued for plagiarism in the United States. She heads for New York without Tommy, and along the way is greeted by Ellen Doubleday (Elizabeth McGovern), the wife of her American publisher, Nelson. (Who, I might add, is played by Christopher Malcolm, also known as Justin on Absolutely Fabulous. Sadly, Bo and Marshall don't make an appearance.)

Daphne, who has a tendency to dress like she's about to go fox hunting (though all she ever seems to do is brood and write and write and brood) and will spend a great deal of the movie stomping around like a 12-year-old boy with mud on his boots, is immediately smitten with Ellen. These stirrings of attraction should ostensibly quicken a viewer's pulse, but since Daphne's lesbian leanings have already been broadly hinted at by her indifference to Tommy and a variety of silly lines in the script (newsreel footage of the bestselling author proclaims her a happy wife and "a keen archer too," and poor Tommy practically apologizes for coming home with the unfortunate line "Darling, I hope it's not a queer anti-climax for you"), they feel more perfunctory than anything else.

It doesn't help that the heterosexual Ellen is rather shamelessly written as sexually ambiguous at first, the better to interest an increasingly bored audience. In the movie's only genuine howler moment (it could have used a few more), the women bond over tea and crumpets at Ellen's Long Island mansion, where Daphne boldly recounts the "kind of fatal attraction" she experienced with a teacher at her French finishing school. ("It gave the most extraordinary thrill.") As dangerous music swells, Ellen smiles through all the smoke she's exhaling and, glancing at Daphne's crumpet, purrs, "Say, that butter is melting. Better suck your fingers." How McGovern managed to keep a straight face during that scene I couldn't tell you, but then she did manage to make it all the way through the Steve Guttenberg epic The Bedroom Window without laughing hysterically.

Kissing your straight BFF rarely ends well, unless she's really drunk.

The flirtatiousness between Daphne and Ellen only lasts for a scene or two, but Daphne is already hooked. Her plagiarism trial brings her suffering to the surface, and she returns from a long day on the stand to tell Ellen: "It's so utterly degrading. It's obscene. I have to answer questions... Don't they understand that these things are private?" (You might want to keep a bottle of aspirin handy while watching Daphne; you're hit over the head like that a lot.) After prevailing in court, she meets Noel Coward at a celebratory soirée thrown by the Doubledays; Coward then introduces her to Gertrude Lawrence. ("She's one of us," he exclaims. By which he means British, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) Janet McTeer's presence hers is one of those supporting performances that ends up supporting the entire movie does breathe some life into the proceedings, but Daphne will have to be rejected by Ellen a few more times before romance with anyone else becomes a possibility.

This impossible, never-ending crush on an unattainable woman is as tedious as it sounds, which is to say it's incredibly tedious. By the time Daphne and Gertrude begin to develop a relationship while working on September Tide, a play inspired by du Maurier's feelings for Ellen, you're not quite sure what the wildly talented (and flamboyantly attired) Gertrude sees in her. More to the point, you don't understand why Daphne continues to moon over Ellen. And moon she does, with overheated declarations taken directly from du Maurier's letters to Doubleday. Letters that express sentiments like:
I was a boy of eighteen all over again. Nervous hands and a beating heart, incurably romantic and wanting to throw a cloak before his lady's feet. I wanted to ride out and fight dragons for you.
There was an urgency to those letters, fraught as they were with naked anxiety, that is missing from Daphne. There's no passion to any of it, nothing that gives you a sense of who these women were or why they were important to each other. Daphne du Maurier was a fascinating figure, as any newspaper article could tell you, but she's a one-dimensional sad-sack here. And the character doesn't just bore viewers, if Somerville's somnolent performance is any indication. She wakes up occasionally, especially opposite McTeer (and there's a funny hotel room exchange with McGovern about Daphne's sexual frustration something about picking up a prostitute at the Ponte Vecchio), but mostly she's handed the unenviable task of moping and moping and moping some more. It takes a no-nonsense Gertrude to interrupt Daphne's ongoing pity party, which she does by simply observing: "You're being very ridiculous, you know. You're behaving like a sulky schoolboy who needs his bottom spanked." Now that would have been an interesting movie.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why, Rivers Cuomo? Why?!

Rivers: “You will respect my authoritah!”

The new Weezer CD comes out today. I am sad about the cover, which is pictured above. I am slightly sad about the first single, "Pork and Beans." (The buzzsaw guitars are cool, though.) This is all in addition to a profound lingering sadness over the travesty that was Make Believe, of course. And yet I can't help myself. My love for The Blue Album, and especially Pinkerton, is so great, so all-consuming, that I will end up buying The Red Album. The deluxe edition, probably. If you want to line up to smack me or something, go ahead, but I know for a fact that several of you own Spice Girls CDs. Just think about that before you pass judgment. And think about Rivers Cuomo moaning "If everyone's a little queer / Why can't she be a little straight?" in "Pink Triangle," his song about a straight man's unrequited crush on a lesbian. How can you not love him, even in that ridiculous cowboy hat?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Man Finds Woman Living in Closet

... Which begs the question, has anyone seen Jorja Fox since she left CSI?

Story: Japanese man shocked when woman comes out of the closet

Sharapova Out at French

Maria Sharapova has been ousted from the French Open by Dinara Safina. It wasn't a surprising turn of events -- Sharapova had struggled in all her previous matches, while Safina seems increasingly determined to prove she's no Marat -- but that doesn't lessen my sadness over today's results. Not only have I been robbed, cruelly robbed, of the chance to type this again at the end of the tournament, I've also been robbed of the chance to see Sharapova's nifty Nike duds for the next week. At least Roger's still around and looking dapper as ever.

In other news... The New York Times ran an interesting piece today called "When Intolerance Becomes Intolerable." Writer Marci Alboher profiles Lisa Sherman, a marketing VP who quit her job at Bell Atlantic fifteen years ago, after a diversity training seminar revealed her colleagues were a bunch of raging homophobes. Sherman's exit from the company prompted chief executive Raymond W. Smith to take swift action in making Bell Atlantic a gay-friendlier corporation, and Sherman is now a bigwig at Logo, also known as the nonstop Bad Girls and Queer as Folk channel. Which is another way of saying that I wish Logo's programming department would have some kind of diversity training seminar.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Your Sunday Dose of Insane Homophobia

"We could teach those Zimbabweans a thing or two about lesbian parenting."

A lesbian couple in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, have announced they're expecting a child conceived via artificial insemination. Zimbabwe, as you probably know, is not a particularly gay-friendly country. Two years ago, their government passed legislation making it illegal for gay couples to hold hands or even hug; President Robert Mugabe, who chooses to believe that homosexuality doesn't exist in the animal kingdom, has gone on record as saying that gays are "worse than dogs or pigs." (Clearly he has never met my parents' dog, who couldn't be more bisexual if he were a character in Velvet Goldmine.)

Given Zimbabwe's charming national history of institutionalized homophobia, this article condemning the happy couple shouldn't come as any surprise, but I still found myself taken aback by the harsh language used by journalist Sithabisiwe Mathema, who refers to the pregnancy as an "uncanny and bizarre incident" perpetrated by the "seemingly conscienceless" lesbian couple, who traveled to South Africa for the procedure. Mathema describes artificial insemination as a process "commonly used for animal breeding purposes," neglecting to point out that it's widely used by heterosexual humans as well, and strangely posits that it "stands to be seen" how a lesbian couple will be able to raise a child, nonsensically adding that, "like other children the baby will have to call one of them father and the other mother."

As for the lengthy and completely bizarre comments offered by Aaron Ndlovu, who lives in the same flat as the expecting lesbians and apparently considers himself some kind of scientist (the kind who is completely fucking stupid), I'll let you to discover those gems on your own and leave you with the words of Melissa Jacobs, the woman whose pregnancy inspired all this vitriol: “We are so enthralled about the birth of our son. We feel so proud even though people look at us disdainfully - they do not understand that even though we are 'faggots' as they call us, we also want to fulfill dreams of also raising a family to carry on our name."

Congratulations to Melissa and her partner.

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