Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rocking Horses Can't Be Broken

It was a night for exceedingly attractive people.

Jeremy Blacklow was in town and even dropped by the show for a bit. Romaine was in a foul mood tonight and had no patience for our gay shenanigans. No matter. I knew there would be plenty of that after the show. Jeremy is a dreamboat whom I first met some years ago at Bowery Bar when he appeared as if by magic from kickboxing class, his arms glistening with sweat, his hands still taped up. It was the kind of entrance not easily forgotten.

Of course I met Jeremy through Matty Kelleher, who is the Kevin Bacon of gay life in New York (Dennis Hensley is the Kevin Bacon of gay life in Los Angeles). If you know Matty, you are never more than six degrees away from any other gay man in Manhattan. Matty is insanely adorable and likable and winning. And he really does know everyone. His inner circle is extremely small (and hates me because I am loud and undignified), but the outer rings extend across continents.

Originally, we all planned to go to Bowery Bar tonight. It was where Matty met Jeremy and I met Jeremy, and where I met Zach. And even though "every asshole is there" as Jonathan so aptly put it tonight as he decamped to the cheap and empty confines of the Boiler Room, it is still after more than a decade, the beating heart of midweek gay life, even if the arteries are a bit clogged with nasty cholesterol.

But after the show, Matty was having a change of heart. They had just seen Cry Baby (awful) and wanted to eat, so they ran off to Rocking Horse, a restaurant down in Chelsea, with no intention of going to Beige after all. Unfortunately, Hottie Zach was planning to be there, as was DJ Ben Harvey. I could easily make new plans myself but I hate being the unreliable guy who switches everyone else's plans. As it turns out, all was fine. Zach met me at the Horse where we had some drinks while Jeremy and Matty finished their meals. The three of us told dusty stories of the good old days while Zach politely nursed a pair of Citron and lemonades.

Soon I convinced Jeremy, who then convinced Matty, that we should all go to Bowery Bar to see Ben Harvey after all. Moments later, we piled into a taxi and zipped across town. The dusty stories continued in the cab, mostly concerning who does and does not warrant a mention in my blog, and the ever meta topic of wondering aloud what part of the current evening I will blog about later.

Finally at Bowery Bar, we bypassed the line, the best part of going out on the town with Matty. He just doesn't believe in standing in line for anything, a conviction I firmly stand behind. Once inside, we saw all the usual suspects. The assholes were out in force. Spring makes them flourish like weeds although the weather was not quite warm enough yet for their worst tank top instincts. Ben was there with Dave Rubin and Dave's friend Yuki, who I apparently met the last time I was at Beige. I didn't remember meeting him but he sure remembered me.

"You have lost a lot of weight since I last saw you." was his greeting. My weight has not changed an ounce but for some reason people always remember me as fatter than I am. After leaving LA for a couple of years I came back to visit and someone said, "You've lost an enormous amount of weight." Enormous. Really? How fat did they think I was before? I promise my weight hasn't fluctuated more than twenty pounds in either direction since puberty. And yet, I am fondly remembered as the fat guy at the party I guess.

In the end, the best part of the night was spending a few quiet moments with Ben. We never get to talk and I really like talking with him. I feel (even though we haven't known each other for a long time) like we understand each other. There is a reason he is my most frequent blog character. I really like hanging out with him. He climbed into a cab and sped home while I decided it was a nice enough night for a walk uptown to the drunk train. On my way, he sent me a text message: "Sketchy gay cab driver! Asked where my bf (you) lived!" I was triumphant. It was outside the bar but finally someone at Bowery Bar was asking after me. As demented as it is, a little attention does make you feel better. Maybe not everyone at that dump is an asshole after all.

I'm kidding. Of course they are.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kevin Can Wait

This past weekend was the one year "home-iversary" of my move to the suburbs. Mike realized it last night around 1am as I was in the midst of still peeling wallpaper off the walls upstairs, and journeyed up the treacherous stairs to my part of the house to tell me. He hates the upstairs. I think he thinks it is haunted. At the very least, when no one is expected over, it is a filthy mess. Right now, it is especially horrible with shards of wallpaper literally littering the carpet. My last two trips to the basement to do laundry ended with the clean clothes still residing in the laundry baskets, which I tossed in the guest room/office upstairs. Out of sight, out of mind. I haven't made my bed in weeks. The twisted sheets look like a crime scene now. I have long since stopped noticing. I refuse to care.

There is much to love about owning your own house. If you hate something, you can get a mad fever and rip the shit out of it. The house came with a tacky wooden shelf in the kitchen, with little hearts carved into the bottom. It looked like something you might find holding figurines at the Precious Moments Chapel and Gift Shop in Carthage, MO, but not that high end. The worst part about it was its placement, at eye level right next to the refrigerator and the entrance to the basement, where you could frequently bang your face into it. I have to assume that after the previous owners lost an eye or two coming around that corner, the look of the thing no longer bothered them. The same could not be said for us, and one night in a fit of rage, Mike tore it right off the wall leaving two hearts where they had painted around it and a deep gash in the plaster that I assure you was far more pleasant to look at than the shelf had been.

How fitting that I should spend the anniversary of home ownership at someone else's house. Kevin and Christopher (who travelled all the way down to Florida to meet me in April) invited me to their small gathering for Memorial Day at their weekend place, which is situated on a small island in the middle of a lake in New Jersey. Kevin wasn't there, having dropped briefly into the tour of Spamalot, leaving Christopher to tend to the parrot, the BBQ and two dozen theatrical types from both the world of Broadway and the wilds of Jersey. It was like West Side Story, if you set it on an island, and made the Jets thin and gay and the Sharks straight and boozy. Everyone there was a star, including the local kids over which the Broadway gays threatened to launch a revival of Oliver! just so they would have a fitting starring vehicle beyond the bright lights of the private island.

Mike and I arrived and in the midst of my being painfully adorable and calling Christopher to tell him we were hopelessly lost (even though we were there), I made the wrong right turn and ended up driving all the way around the lake. Because the house is on an island, everyone (and everything) must be transported by row boat. We were greeted at the dock by Logan, a foxy teen from J Crew heaven in a button down shirt, loose shorts and an endlessly grin behind sunglasses, hired to row, clean up after the drunks and give the gays something to look at and feel bad about. Later when I found out he was fifteen(!), I seriously considered pulling a Shelley Winters (a la A Place In The Sun) and falling out of the boat in the dark row back to shore. But then I realized I was at a party full of Broadway professionals and I had no chance of outdoing any of them in the dramatic movement department, tempting though it might be to try.

Christopher was cheerfully manning the grill as we arrived, so filled with 1950s brio only a chef's hat and Kiss The Cook apron or a slender smoking pipe with pork pie hat could make the scene more complete. I have no doubt that by the July 4th party one of those two ensembles will be in place. Perhaps Kevin will wear one and Christopher the other. Everyone at the party was very friendly and lovely and sweet and I am afraid to say anything about any of them because people always take it the wrong way. Also, I only have the capacity to remember two names and while I think I might have actually pulled out three or four, I don't want anyone to feel bad that I didn't remember their name. They are actors after all and not being known, named or recognized is even worse than a bad review.

I will say that Hannah was a high point at the party. She had appeared with Christopher in the West End production of Spamalot as, ironically enough, the Lady In The Lake. She is currently in the Broadway production and even though I have never seen the show, know nothing about her role or her ability to sing, I assure you from watching her devour half a watermelon while sitting with a straight back and a naked ballet toe, that she will be the best thing in the show. That she later rowed entirely around the island without breaking a sweat and informed us all that of course she rowed for Great Britain in college came as a surprise to no one. She is tremendous. Logan thought so too and while I am certain he long since lost his virginity, I suspect that he wishes that he lost it to Hannah. I know I did. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that his chin frequently tried to rest between her breasts as she gorgeously reached for something else to eat. She was a star among stars but so unassuming about it that no one seemed to mind being upstaged by her.

Mike is not what I would call social and being in a sea of outgoing people seems to make him want to retreat even more. At one point, he wandered off to one of the hammocks and rested a while on an outcropping over the quiet waters of the lake. It really was a perfect day for it and he wasn't the only one who sought refuse in a hammock or two. He did briefly engage in the handmade game Christopher imported from his Minnesota childhood. Similar to horseshoes, it involves tossing over sized washers into holes in an AstroTurf-covered platform some feet away. The other guests I believe mistakenly called the game "holy war" which didn't seem fitting for a nice backyard diversion from a quiet Northern state. Those of us spectating on a nearby rock tried to rename it "glory hole" in a fit of inappropriateness, but Christopher's ancestors can rest easy knowing that name didn't seem to stick either. Speaking of Minnesota, I knew when I made my hamburger there would be mayonnaise in the fridge to put on it, although Christopher insisted that Kevin is the one who loves mayo and he has always been partial to the Miracle Whip (with the H not at all silent).

Christopher and I spent some nice quality time talking about the joys of home ownership and all the miseries that go into owning something on an island. He confided a charming anecdote about the move-in that I remembered from the 2004 New York Times article Kevin sent me. I don't blame him. My patter when showing people my house is so canned, I could just give them a recording on my ipod and let them tour on their own like in a museum. Their island paradise did fill me with insane mad jealousy that made my own house seem instantly less magical when I got home. But of course, I only got to see it when it was filled with happy people and sunshine. When you don't have to drag supplies across an ice-covered lake only to discover you forgot to buy milk, it is easy to fall in love with the charm spell that can descend on such a place. In the end, I realized that owning a house on an island, while lovely, is really a whole lot of work and misery and aggravation, punctuated with brief moments of blissful happiness. Just like marriage!

Back home, I looked out on the rose bushes I just planted and made plans for an arbor in the backyard where that rundown dog pen used to be. Earlier in the weekend, Mike and I tore the ramble shack overgrown pen apart, digging scoops full of broken glass out of the ground, remnants of a drunken teen night of target practice some years ago. We cleared old branches and dirty trash and one of every kind of ball you can imagine (tennis, whiffle, soft, literally everything but a shuttlecock), like archaeologists discovering an unkempt former civilization happily long departed. Someday I thought, people will feel the happy bliss I felt on Christopher and Kevin's island sitting in my backyard and while they smile contentedly, all I will remember are the piles of broken glass and be filled with resentment that I can't afford to surround the house entirely with water. I suppose I should just be patient. It has only been a year, and the house keeps getting better and better, one tiny improvement at a time. And the way it's been raining, my own private island might not be that far in the future after all.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Now Next!

Ah limbo! Yes, the Catholic Church abolished it years ago but that doesn’t mean it no longer exists in the world of celebrity. If anything, it is thriving there. Tonight we did a live broadcast from backstage at the New Now Next awards, which will air on LOGO on June 7th. It was a perfect limbo opportunity for us, not really press per se nor celebrity, we got to exist in the nether regions of the media room shuttled off in a dark corner of the MTV studios. We weren’t the only ones in limbo. As I pointed out with my previous GLAAD adventure, there are tiers of celebrity, and once again, we were on the bottom rung.

This is not uncommon for us and it is a fair trade off for the life we get to lead. On the one hand, we are reasonably well known in the rest of America (I was just named Grand Marshall of Indy Pride 2008!), but in New York City, we aren’t even a blip. The upside of this is that we can walk the streets of Manhattan unmolested by fans. The downside of course is that all of the glamorous trappings that would normally come with celebrity (namely invites to fun parties filled with free liquor and other celebrities) constantly elude us. However, in this case, we were able to be reasonably unknown and hang out with celebrities and drink free booze.

The awards themselves I will leave largely shrouded in mystery, lest I give away any winners accidentally. Suffice it to say, it was eerily reminiscent of past MTV events, such as the MTV Movie Awards, which should add a level of familiarity and comfort to viewers even if many of the presenters and winners are as yet unknown to them. This I think is the idea though. It is called New Now Next, with the emphasis on introducing new talent as opposed to rehashing past stars and straight allies, a cornerstone of the high end GLAAD awards for years. I applaud the effort even as I worry the outcome.

Many of my favorite people were there, including the lovely Andy Towle, whose blog I am hopelessly devoted to. We even got him to spend a few minutes on our show, which is a little bit like get later years Howard Hughes to trim his fingernails. Jack Mackenroth was there, along with Kevin Christiana and Christian Siriano from Project Runway. Jack is a ray of bitchy sunshine and pound for muscular pound the best cocktail chatter partner money can buy. I only wish any sliver of our conversation could be repeated in print, but rest assured if Disney’s Lady and the Tramp ever comes to Broadway we could play the Siamese cats, only drunk and real cunty.

Things really moved into high gear once we hit the after party. This is where the other bank of celebrities existed, the bank we would have been with if we hadn’t been live on the radio. LOGO invited two sets of guests: those who would be on the TV show and do that press line and those who would watch from the after party room and do a different press line. Here we found lovely friends like Josh Zuckerman and Keo Nozari, patiently waiting out the evening for everyone else to join them. They spent three hours with the who’s that of New York gay society swilling cocktails and eating pigs in a blanket and mini grilled cheese sandwiches (the hot Hollywood hors d‘oeuvre du jour ten years ago). Later after the on-air celebrities appeared, sushi was thrown into the mix to remind everyone that better people had arrived. There were even two sets of gift bags. Segregation may have been outlawed in the public sphere fifty years ago but it is beloved in entertainment circles.

As the other stars drifted upstairs I finally got some alone time with the fabulous God-des and She, who looked great and were sad that they missed my cinco de mayo party. Michael Carbonaro was there, auditioning for a comic relief role on Mad Men while Peter Stickles stood by, serene and beautiful. His skin was so perfect I wanted to scrape off a sample and send it to a lab to be cloned and then grafted onto my own face. Caroline Rhea who earlier had done the show, still couldn’t get over how much I looked like her gay high school boyfriend. She kept touching me wistfully and then running away.

I thought that would be the weirdest part of the evening until Junior Vasquez’s mega Madonna mix sent a set of avant-garde performers into a frenzy of spontaneous nudity on the stage. At this point, I was standing with Jensen Atwood, who did the show while I was out in Los Angeles two years ago when our mutual friend Ben Patrick Johnson was co-hosting with me. “This is too arty for me.” I said, conscious of my eyes rolling back in my head. “I guess it’s what the kids like.” In my mind, I was already at coat check picking up my bag and backpack.

Security seemed to have the same idea as they sauntered up onto the stage to encourage them to put their clothes back on. But by then it was one a.m., the lights were coming up anyway and the bar was closed. The minute the clothes had come off, the party was definitely over. This may have been LOGO’s hot new edgy award show, a big gay coming out party filled with the gritty vim and verve of downtown Manhattan (aka Amanda Lepore’s fully functioning vagina), but the powers that be didn’t want us to forget for a moment that mama MTV is actively chaperoning this gay adolescent who still has a little more growing up to do.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

That's Entertainment

I used to work in the entertainment industry and to this day I still doing understand it. It all seems like such a waste. Gore Vidal talks about a conversation he had with Jackie Kennedy where they talked about all the money the campaign spent on opposition research to dig up dirt they knew they could never use. “All that money,” she lamented, undoubtedly knowing hundreds of better ways to spend it. I guess I feel the same way about entertainment. I like to watch TV and movies and I really appreciate it when they spent a fair amount of money on it and it turned out good. So why waste it all?

I watch a lot of cable shows that I enjoy like Eureka, the 4400, the L Word and Psych and as much as I enjoy them, the topography of British Columbia is starting to get to me. I know these kinds of shows are set in places like Santa Barbara and Washington State or weirdly enough the heart of West Hollywood (not exactly a lesbian mecca but I digress). But they end up looking exactly like what they are: shot within blocks of each other. I know it’s about cutting costs but we can tell! Paul Monette wrote about feeling instantly comfortable when he moved to Los Angeles and later on a picnic with friends where Lassie had been shot, he realized why. It was the land of his TV childhood. I suppose if I ever go to Vancouver, it will feel like returning to the womb, if that is what my 30s can be called now that 50 is the new 30.

But speaking of the 4400, it has been ignominiously cancelled. Now we will never know what the future had in store for the human race. The same goes for the secret organization that built Jaime Sommers now that the Bionic Woman has been cast onto a digital garbage heap somewhere. And they had just introduced the hot son of Beau Bridges who barely had time to take his pants off and get comfortable.

Unfortunately, changing a show isn’t enough to save it these days. Back To You fired an eleven year old girl and replaced her with an even more adorable ten year old (off to a lifetime of broken relationships and therapy for you grandma!) only to find out that FOX did not want to go Back To You after all. Moonlight on CBS transformed their vampire hero who solves crime into a mortal who solves crimes. Groundbreaking! I guess I won’t miss that one after all, even though it appears it has been replaced by foxy Simon Baker as a fake psychic who helps solve crimes (ummm.. Psych II?). I hope he at least has the courtesy to take his shirt off more often than that James Roday. But the real crime is the end of Women’s Murder Club, a not great show, but still a satisfying one. Like Sprite. You wouldn’t choose it outright but on a hot day if it is over ice, it can hit the spot.

To me, it all seems like such a waste. What is the point of getting emotionally invested in a show, only to watch it disappear before your very eyes. Why can’t my love for TV be like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward? Why do the networks keep giving us John Doe and Journeyman and Playing It Straight and then pulling a Love Story on us and expecting us to keep coming back? No wonder ratings are continuing to fall on the networks. At least with a cable show, they give you the whole season of Rome or Deadwood before they give up on it.

And the worst part is the waste. What a waste of money and talent and time and effort. It is one thing if everyone tries their best and you end up with Jezebel James, but Back To You is a great sitcom with the top talent in the business. Yes it doesn’t have the ratings of American Idol, but guess what FOX, neither does anything else on television. So the answer is to cancel a great show and keep another Bataan death march of a season of According To Jim, living proof that the devil is still willing grant immortality in tinseltown in exchange for a human soul or two. Or maybe it is proof that this is actually Hell itself.

So now we will never know why Journeyman was a journey man or what kind of sandwich Claire was always eating on Women’s Murder Club (I suspect a sensible PB&J because it can sit in a purse for hours without going bad). Those secrets will be kept locked away upstairs along with Bonnie Hunt’s other daughter and Richie Cunningham’s older brother. There was a rumor that Showtime wanted to bring Arrested Development back but with a smaller cast. As much as I miss one of the greatest shows ever, why would you want to play Sophie’s Choice with that cast? I guess some things are just better left in the realm of the unknown.