Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nom De Drag Roll Call

After I posted last week about Rita Beads, some of you wrote to me to tell me your own favorite drag names. We're due for a giggle here, so let's devote a post to that theme, yes? My own taste in drag names runs from the really infantile, like Suppositori Spelling, to the inexplicably funny, like Peaches Christ. See? It's funny every time you say it. Peaches Christ! I'm not crazy about the old punny standbys like Virginia Hamm, Bertha Vanation, Anita Mann, etc, although for many that is their favorite form. I do have a soft spot for the hilariously grandiose names preferred by some of the black drag queens, names such as Monique de Bon Marche' or Veronique von Velioux. (I just made those up, but you know the kind I mean, right?) By the way... Peaches CHRIST! Yup, still funny.

1. Rita Beads
2. Peaches Christ
3. Suppositori Spelling

Now you.


As expected, the gay marriage ban failed in the Senate today, by a vote of 49-48 with a two-thirds majority (60 votes) need to pass. The 49 votes in favor of the ban was only a one vote increase over the last Senate vote on this issue in 2004, with a surprising 7 Republicans voting "No". Only two Democrats voted for the ban, Nebraska's Ben Nelson and West Virginia's Robert Byrd.

Related: Thanks go out to JMG reader Todd, who sent me this Garrison Keilor piece from Salon. Best bit: "Somewhere in the quiet leafy recesses of the Bush family, somebody is thinking, "Wrong son. Should've tried the smart one. This one's eyes don't quite focus."

HomoQuotable - Simon Doonan

"It might take years to get the marriage thingy approved. In the meantime remember that you, as a fabulous person of queerness, are still ahead of the game. You are one of the chosen people. Unlike a straight person, you are free, free to stay down on the farm or free to move to the big city and spread your wings, free to self-invent, free to wear maribou!" - Simon Doonan, author, TV personality, Barneys creative director. (From Doonan's My Ten Gay Commandments - Pride Magazine)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Peeping Tom

I knew it!

GB:NYC3, Or "Sure, I'll Drink That!"

If you are in New York City and you can't find any alcohol, it's because the bloggers drank it all.

Last weekend was GB:NYC3, the gay bloggers' confab, and starting with the kickoff mixer Friday night at Hell's Kitchen's Barrage, right on through to early Monday morning, I drank beer, I drank shots of tequila, I drank some horrendous sugar-rimmed concoction called a Lemon Drop, and I think there may have been a shot or three of Jagermeister. Never mix, never worry? I mixed. I worried.

Starting with my blogdaddy Vasco, who was celebrating his birthday, right down to my own blogchildren Mark and Eddie, it was a wall-to-wall weekend of digital camera flashes and another kind of flashing. Ahem. And of course, there was some dirty blogger-on-blogger action, including one local notable who strolled into beer bust on Sunday wearing the same clothes from the night before. Yeah, right. Like I'm the only one that's gonna blog about that.

I probably shouldn't attempt to list all the bloggers in attendance, but I will give a few nods to those I met for the first time: Mike of Kiss My Mike, Bob of Bob's Yer Uncle, Rick of Rcktman's Launching Pad, Karen of Tuna Girl, Patrick of Traveling Spotlight. (And about ten others who I can't think of right now.)

Locals I gabbed with at various times: David of Someone In A Tree, Glenn of Glennalicious, Richard of Proceed At Your Own Risk, Erik The Cute Robocub, Eric The Hirsute We, Like Sheep, Michael of So I Like Superman, Mike P of Blather & Bosh, Jeff of Tin Manic, Jase of Life By Jase, Matt of 'Til The Cows Come Home, Chris of See My Briefs, Byrne of Crash & Byrne, and MsOusier. On import: Sean of The Sean Show (who was kinda the star of the weekend), Jeff of Cynically Optimistic (who has pics posted), Mark and Brian of Zeitzeuge (who invented GB:NYC and has pics posted), Scott of Palochi (who had an interesting visit).

I suppose the planning is already underway for GB:NYC4. I need an aspirin.

Pride'06 Hits The Streets

Pride Magazine 2006 hits the streets this week with articles on the midterm elections, the status of gays in Iran, the queer artists who rock pop music, and an exclusive interview with cover subject Marc Jacobs, photographed by Bill Diodato. Also onboard with commentary are John Waters, Justin Bond, Marga Gomez, Edmund White and many other gay luminaries. I especially like the Simon Doonan piece, My Ten Gay Commandments. Look for Pride Magazine in hot spots around your local gayborhood.

Bulge Alert

A friend of mine was just telling me about his recent experience of picking a guy up in a leather bar and getting him home to find that he was wearing a diaper under his Levi's. While I've come across just about every fetish in the book and a few that aren't, infantilism is one I've been thankfully spared. So far. My friend's experience makes it occur to me that maybe we shouldn't let ourselves get too turned on by a bulging basket, because it could be, you know...Huggies.

Bloggers Get High

In the good thing/bad thing department: Jetblue has purchased a band of frequency from the government which will allow them to offer internet and cell phone access and sell such access to other carriers. A wave of blog posts that begin "I'm writing this from 30,000 feet above the Rocky Mountains" coming in 5...4...3....2....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Hilton Hit Hammers Haters

As if I didn't spend enough time wondering if I'm crazy, there's this: I don't hate the Paris Hilton single, Stars Are Blind. In fact, I think I sorta dig it. I mean, I'm sure that with a bit of studio wizardry, even I could be made to sound agreeable, but it really bothers me that I don't hate the song, considering how much I loathe the singer. I must concur with the headline writer who came up with "Paris Hilton Is A Dumb Ho (With An Unexpectedly Catchy Song)".

UPDATE: NY Post review.

HomoQuotable - Frank Oldham

"The epidemic is still lavender." - Frank Oldham, Executive Director, National Association Of People With AIDS, speaking about the changing demographic of those with AIDS, pointing out that over 250,000 gay men of all colors have died. While AIDS is a more and more a disease of women and people of color, Oldham says, "If you had to have a color attached to the epidemic, it is lavender. It's gay men who are white, gay men who Latino, gay men who are Asian, and gay men who are black. The epidemic is still lavender." (via- Bay Area Reporter)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Instant Disco History #6: On Broadway

As has been well documented on this here website thingy, I have no love for showtunes. I consider it one of my greatest failings as a career homosexual, along with my disinterest in the culinary arts and my apparent inability to discern minor color gradations. Eggplant? Eggshell? Whatever.

However, one does not live in a vacuum and there is just no way for a career homosexual to not absorb some knowledge of showtunes, especially not if you've spent several thousand evenings in a gay disco. Because right after torch ballads, the most disco-versioned of any music genre has got to be Broadway showtunes. And if said showtune is also a torch ballad? Kismet! (And by "kismet", I don't mean the actual 1953 Broadway musical Kismet or the 1955 movie version directed by Vincente Minelli, who made other contributions to homosexual culture.)

Just about every song from every Broadway musical has been given a disco treatment, usually with not-so-great results. Give a listen to The Ethel Merman Disco Album if you're really feeling self-abusive. Formerly a staple of gay dancefloor, the discofied showtune has pretty much disappeared over the last decade or so, tracking the declining number of hit musicals, one could argue. One notable recent exception would be Deborah Cox's 2004 hit, Easy As Life, from Aida. What follows below are six of the most popular disco versions of Broadway showtunes. The songs are available for your download, but I encourage you to purchase the full-lengths, where available.

1. What I Did For Love - Grace Jones, 1977.

From A Chorus Line.

Wow, this is painful. I love Grace Jones, but this is just one painfully bad song. I include it for two reasons: 1)It was a fairly big hit in the gay clubs and 2)Even as bad as it is, it's better than the other showtunes on the album, which include Tomorrow from Annie and Send In The Clowns from A Little Night Music. However this album did give us the immortal morning music classic La Vie En Rose, so all is forgiven.

(Grace Jones, What I Did For Love Island Records 1977. Download What I Did For Love. Purchase Grace Jones: Portfolio, here.)

2. If My Friends Could See Me Now - Linda Clifford, 1978.

From Sweet Charity.

Linda Clifford's If They Could See Me Now remains a staple of disco oldie radio formats. Clifford, a former beauty queen (Miss New York 1963), was signed to Curtis "Superfly" Mayfield's Curtom Records. This track was fully orchestrated and I just love the string section laid against the staccato piano riffs. This is a all-time disco classic, perhaps more than any other Broadway tune gone disco. The album, by the same name, contained a number of hits, most notably Runaway Love.

(Linda Clifford, If My Friends Could See Me Now, Curtom Records 1978. #1 US Dance (5 wks). Download If My Friends Could See Me Now. Purchase Runaway Love: The Singles Anthology, here.

3. Don't Cry For Me Argentina - Festival, 1979

From Evita

Festival was the studio creation of Russian-born New Yorker Boris Midney, who was also the creator of studio acts Beautiful Bend (That's The Meaning, Boogie Motion) and USA-European Connection (Come Into My Heart/Good Lovin'). His Disco Evita album, as Festival, featured four vocalists and a 17-piece orchestra, including Midney himself on violin. The album covers many of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber songs from the Broadway musical, as well as a Midney original titled Evita's Theme: Lady Woman. If I had a nickel for every party I went to that year during which Disco Evita was played in its entirety ...well, I'd have a lot of nickels, because the queens adored this album.

(Festival, Don't Cry For Me Argentina, RSO Records, 1979. #1 US Dance, 1 wk. Download Don't Cry For Me Argentina. Purchase The Boris Midney Anthology, here.

4. Memory - Menage 1983

From Cats

Man, I hated this record. Hate, hate, hated it. But it was a big hit and I must include it. This track has been unavailable commercially for years, so unless you want to track down the 12" in a used record shop or purchase it on one of the outrageously expensive import compilations, you may as well download it here. Menage was a one-off studio creation of Warren Schwartz, who produced Turn The Beat Around for Vicki Sue Robinson.

(Menage, Memory, Profile Records 1983. Download Memory. Purchase HI-NRG Classics, here.)

5. I Am What I Am - Gloria Gaynor, 1983

From La Cage Aux Folles

Gloria Gaynor returned from the triumph of 1979's I Will Survive and in her version of I Am What I Am, arguably created the most enduring and beloved anthem of gay pride yet recorded. Watch a short clip of Gaynor performing I Am What I Am, here. When you hear this song at Pride events this year, and you will, take a look around at some of our butcher brothers having a big ol' nelly moment during "Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty!"

(Gloria Gaynor, I Am What I Am, Silver Blue Records, 1983. Download I Am What I Am. Purchase Gloria Gaynor: I Am What I Am, here.)

6. One Night Only - Scherrie Payne, 1984

From Dreamgirls.

Scherrie Payne was one of the 87 members of The Supremes, post-Diana Ross. Interestingly, former Supreme (#4, I believe) Cindy Birdsong provides backing vocals on One Night Only, which was a decent chart and club success for Payne. A few years ago, Scherrie was part of the hugely failed Supremes reunion tour, which was a major embarrassment to Miss Ross. Scherrie's sister is Freda Band Of Gold Payne. One Night Only was released on San Francisco's way-gay label, Megatone Records, home of Sylvester.

(Scherrie Payne, One Night Only, Megatone Records, 1984. Download One Night Only.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Fundamental Summer Listening

Pet Shop Boys' new release Fundamental, which has already gone to #1 in ten countries, is their best work since 1993's Very, and that is saying something. I recommend getting the limited edition double-disc Fundamental/Fundamentalism. I particularly like the track The Sodom And Gomorrah Show. On the remix disc, Stuart Crichton's remix of In Private is a grand trance production that will take many of you back to the circuit heyday of the late 90's.

And here's a real treat: The BBC is streaming last week's PSB performance with the BBC Concert Orchestra and a cast of special guest stars, including Rufus Wainwright, who performs Casanova In Hell, and Robbie Williams who sings Jealousy. This concert was edited for broadcast and you can really feel it at times, but Neil Tennant is in great voice.Trivia: Although Pet Shop Boys haven't had a Top 40 hit in America in 18 years, they have had 38 Top 40 hits in the U.K., the all-time record for a duo. Erasure isn't far behind, with 30 UK Top 40 hits.

Silver Membership

Most of the media will observe this week as the 25th anniversary of AIDS, as it was on June 5th, 1981, that the Centers For Disease Control's Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report first mentioned a "strange cluster of pneumonia cases" in five gay men (although the unusual illnesses were first mentioned 3 weeks earlier in the gay paper, The New York Native). Below is one of the earliest stories from this blog, in which I explain how AIDS first entered my world in 1985.


Michael didn't look good.

We were at his annual Christmas Luau party. Tons and tons of people in the house and the backyard. Standing in his kitchen, wearing a grass skirt and a ridiculous Santa hat covered in sequins, he was acting like always...all flamboyant and silly and adorable.

But he didn't look...right.

It was 1985.

My boyfriend Ken and I stayed until the end of the party to help clean up. I busied myself in the kitchen, washing glasses and cleaning ashtrays. Through the kitchen window, I watched Ken and Michael in the backyard, stacking up the chairs and dousing the dozens of tiki torches, the trademark of Michael's party. When we were finished, Ken and I stood for a few minutes on Michael's front porch, reviewing the party, who came, who didn't, who shouldn't have come.

Finally, I yawned and stretched and nudged Ken. "C'mon babe, let's roll. Michael, lots of fun, as always. Try and get some sleep, you look like you need it."

Ken shot me a scowl.

I tried to recover, "I mean, you must be exhausted from getting that party ready."

Michael laughed and lit a cigarette. "Oh, you know me. I'll bounce back. Nothing that can't be cured by cigarettes, coffee and cocaine!"

We giggled and waved and headed down the driveway. When we reached our car, I looked back at the house. Michael was struggling with the garbage cans, then broke into a hacking cough.

For the first few minutes of our ride home, Ken and I didn't say anything. Then, at a traffic light, I looked over at him. "Didn't you think Michael..."

"He's FINE!" Ken cut me off.

"You didn't think he looked kinda thin? And that coughing..."

'Well, you know he smokes too much. And you'd look worn out too if YOU threw a Christmas party for 100 people.'

"Yeah, I guess."

Ken knew what I was talking about, even if we didn't actually talk about it. For two years, maybe three, we'd been following the developing story about AIDS. First, the press was calling it 'gay cancer'. Then GRID. Gay Related Immune Disorder. Then AIDS.

We lived in Orlando. Almost all the cases were in New York or San Francisco, and that made us feel safe, in a strange way. Neither of us had been in either place, except as children. And we didn't have any friends from either city. Then Miami began to report cases.

Michael was from Miami.

A week after his Christmas party, on New Year's Eve, out at the club, Michael uncharacteristically left early. Before midnight. He said his hip was bothering him. Our friend Jack teased him as he was leaving. "Oh, is Grandpa having some problems with his rheumatiz?"

Michael just smiled and blew us kisses from across the room and limped out.

A few weeks later Ken called me from his office. He was going to take Michael to the hospital. His hip was terribly infected, and Michael couldn't walk. I didn't ask him what was wrong, by now we knew. And Michael knew that we did.

Waiting for Ken to come home, I watched a TV report on AIDS. Specifically, it dealt with how funeral parlors were sometimes refusing to handle the bodies of AIDS patients. Fear of infection. Fear of loss of reputation. The narrator made a comment about the families and friends of those killed by AIDS. He called them 'this new and modern group' of grievers. When Ken got home, I told him about the story with indignation.

Over the next few months, Michael was in the hospital quite a bit. Ken got into the habit of visiting him on his way home from work, something I could rarely do, since I worked nights. When I did see Michael, he looked progressively worse. Skinnier, pale, his skin patchy and scaley.

But he always had that bitchy sense of humor and that chicken cackle. I'd hear that laugh from down the hallway as I approached his room, which always seemed to be full of friends.

Florida started its state lottery that summer. On the first night of the big drawing, I tried to stay awake for the results, but I fell asleep with the tickets in my hands. I was awakened by Ken sitting on the bed.

"Hey." I rolled over and looked at the clock. Three in the morning?

Ken still had his tie on. My throat clenched. I don't know why, but I pushed the lottery tickets over towards him.

"So, um...are we millionaires?"

Ken didn't answer me.

"Where have you been? At the hospital? How's Michael?"

Ken leaned over and started untying his shoes. He pulled them off and finally turned to face me. He looked so very tired. He laid down next to me and hugged me, then spoke softly into my ear.

"We've just joined that 'new and modern' group."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Don't Make Me Read Your Beads

It's been almost 30 years and despite challenges from thousands of hilarious contenders, Rita Beads remains my all time favorite drag name. Rita was a hairy chested, butch mustached, roller-skating, pregnant nun sort of drag queen, back in late 70's Orlando.

The reason Rita Beads is such a funny name is probably sadly lost to most of you, but the threat to "read your beads" was a common expression back in the day, one homo to another. Reading someone's beads meant to tell them off, to give them what-for, to put them in the their place, in the sort of high-drama that only can come from a place of great creativity and style. And cuntiness.

"Don't make me read your beads, bitch!"

The verb "read", by itself, in this context, continues to be used today, although I rarely hear it these days. "Is he over there reading my outfit?" And I've always like the adjective "readful", as in, "Ooh, I just gave him a readful rake and walked away! (Snap)" Reading often includes snapping but white guys can rarely pull off the snap. It's a black thing, really. Like the head swivel, which can also be a component of a talented read. Can anybody tell I took a walk on the pier last weekend?

Stop Blocking The Fan!

It's only the first day of June and I've already had more than enough hot. New York is just miserable during the summer and it's a freakin' 2-3 hour science project just to get to the beach. Not that I enjoy beaches all that much anyway, with my fishbelly complexion. Ten years in Fort Lauderdale and I probably went to the beach twice a year. San Francisco's freezing summers, which I used to bitch about so much, are looking awfully good right now. There's no making me happy.


West Village, Summer 2004

It's a beautiful afternoon. My friend Andy and I are killing an hour ambling around the shops on Bleecker street, wasting time before a show. Across the street, I spot a drag queen pulling off a spectacular Mary J. Blige impression. Big wig, big glasses, big bling, big Louis Vuitton handbag. I'm so impressed with how much the queen looks like Mary J. Blige, that I nudge Andy.

"Wow! Check out Mary J. Weave!"

I look at Andy's face but it's frozen in embarrassment.

"Joe, she heard you."

I snap my gaze back across the street. The queen is standing there giving us an angry look. I'm mortified. Her thuggish looking friend whispers in her ear and for a moment it seems like she is going to come across the street and give us a vicious read, pier queen-style. Then they turn their backs on us and step into a coffeeshop. I exhale in relief.

"OK, that could have really sucked."

Andy and I walk around for another ten minutes, talking about what we might have done if that queen had decided to come across and get in my face for talking smack about her. We agree that running away from her would have been a strong possibility. Then, stupidly, we enter the Ralph Lauren store, only to come right up against her again. My stomach sinks for the second time.

It really IS Mary J. Blige.