Monday, March 30, 2009

Special (Lack of) Recognition

Romaine and I accepted a GLAAD Award on Saturday night but you would never know it from the media coverage of the event, especially the coverage from gay media. For years, we have all railed against GLAAD for tripping over themselves to lavish attention and praise on whatever straight celebrity was willing to show up at their event to get an award (Jennifer Aniston... a nice lady and all, but really?!) while ignoring worthy efforts done by LGBT people everywhere. Since then, GLAAD has made huge strides in correcting this, while gay media has continued to lag behind in the coverage of gay people. Well, gay people who haven't been anointed by mainstream media. After six years of broadcast our show is good enough for TIME Magazine and The Washington Post to praise but I guess that doesn't reach the tipping point to make us worthy of even a short blurb in The Advocate.

The world may see the gay community as a trend setter but in gay media, it is all follow-the-leader. The gay people profiled and pushed in our own media get there because attention was paid to them first in "straight" media. Everyone politely forgets the real damage Clay Aiken did to the gay community for years before coming out on the cover of People Magazine in 2008, and as I predicted on my radio show last year, he was front and center at the GLAAD Awards just a few scant months later, with the gay press on the red carpet scrambling to get a sound byte. Two years ago, the Claymates tried to get a personal friend of mine fired from his job, assaulting the head of his company with weeks of angry phone calls and emails for daring to tell the truth about Clay's unseemly internet advances. But Clay is famous! So let bygones be bygones.

Our award was a Special Recognition, one of only four given out on Saturday night (Suze Orman, Tyra Banks, Phil Donahue and us), for a radio special we did called "The Laramie Project Ten Years Later: The Lasting Legacy Of Matthew Shepard." Yes, I am certain a documentary about the most produced play in America's colleges and high schools does sound more dry than Tyra giving free sex reassignment surgery to Isis on her daytime talk show, but real people in this country face down the threat and danger of hate crimes every single day. And while the bodies stack up like cord wood from California to the Carolinas, gay media ignores what is happening until it is too late. The passage of Prop 8 was a hate crime, don't kid yourself. And Keith Olbermann himself admitted that he should have done his Special Comment before the vote instead of after, which he acknowledged in front of the teary-eyed crowd at the Marriott Marquis as he accepted his GLAAD Award for his brave closing of the barn door after the horse was gone (wither Rachel Maddow).

The work to fight hate in this country continues every single day. Judy Shepard is still travelling around the world getting the word out. Our award was an opportunity for the gay community to highlight the real work being done out there to help prevent the next Lawrence King or Ryan Skipper. Maybe even promote the free download of the special now at SiriusOutQ.com where donations are being solicited for the Matthew Shepard Foundation so that they can continue to fund their good work even as the spotlight has faded. And in the week after George Weber was murdered right here in NYC, one of the websites we helped promote at launch, cut us from the piece written about the GLAAD Awards. A teacher in Oklahoma was just fired for doing scenes from The Laramie Project at her school, but AfterElton.com didn't want to interview us on the red carpet. I guess we weren't as topical and timely as the genuinely lovely Phil Donahue whose show went off the air quietly 13 years ago. After waiting to be interviewed by the AfterElton.com reporter, we were told he was gone, having to leave early. Except that I saw him and his ugly purple vest upstairs in the media viewing area later during the show. So even though we host a radio show available to 19 million subscribers across North America in numbers that swamp nearly all the rest of gay media, we'll spend another year in gay media purgatory not on the OUT 100 list and other cherry-picked personal vendettas in print form while not-out gay celebrities walk the red carpet at GLAAD with immunity and present awards, getting free passes from gay media because they are really funny on that ABC show of theirs even if their personal life is just too personal to discuss.

Everyone wanted to Join The Impact after Prop 8 passed in California but why were some people so slow to act beforehand? Why did it take Brad Pitt putting his money where his mouth was before Ellen DeGeneres? I guess some people don't feel it is important to do anything until it is already too late. After all, crying over spilled milk is always better television than making sure the milk doesn't spill in the first place. Last weekend, while sitting in the SIRIUS XM booth at Pride South Florida some gay walked by and tossed an unwanted folded-over flyer onto our table as he passed by. I took his thoughtlessly discarded trash and threw it right back at him, much to the horror of another gay man walking by who couldn't believe how rude I was. As far as I am concerned, there are two kinds of gay people in this world: those who just accept the trash thrown at them and do nothing and those who take the trash and throw it right back. Well, I am the second kind of gay. Here is your trash back gay media. Shove it up your ass.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bad Manners

"I should have told you at the beginning of this conversation that I have no people skills."

I am aware when I write about my encounters out on the town, it gives people a thrill to see me say things like this. I promise you that the person hearing it first hand is not thrilled. Case in point: Thursday night at The Park, Matty's monthly soiree of boys, booze and bouncing around. Happening at the tail end of March, this particular event took on all the trappings of a Fire Island pre-party, right down to the hunky gemologist, stunned by his misfortune to be in conversation with me.

Wonderful Brian Babst introduced me to Seth and for a moment, I did my best to engage him in small talk about his favorite subject: himself. Unfortunately, my lack of knowledge about or interest in diamonds, jewelry, abs and the Ascension party on Fire Island turned me rapidly into a pumpkin before his very non-believing eyes. Suddenly, his head was swiveling around like an office chair in an earthquake, desperate to find someone (anyone!) else that he knew so that he could return to his safety zone, waxing poetic about his lock necklace and who accidentally O.D.ed last summer swigging on a sports bottle full of GHB.

All this was later in the evening, when most of the men in suits had faded away and what was left was cruisy, drunk and ready to rekindle old flames from Pines past. Already the muscles are bulging from beneath strained t-shirts like snow crocuses making their first budding ventures out of the frost. Spring is here I hear, and a Summer of thongs and regrets (and regretting seeing some in thongs) is just around the corner. And tonight, in between the Wall Streeters and the hunky casual, a sea of plaid shirts that caught the attention first of Dave Rubin ("Is that what we are doing now?") and then moments later Brian himself ("Brother, can you spare some gingham?"). It's Depression Chic, I assured them, happy to for once be, if not ahead of the curve, at least balancing precariously on it.

I didn't need to meet anyone new, and at this point really, new men are just cannon fodder for my blog anyway. Sorry Seth. I am sure your well-formed shoulders can handle the burden of it all. However, I did bring someone new this time. Delicious Matt Kugelman delighted me by coming along with his friend Chip and the three of us had a gay old time. Matt knows his way around a hot Manhattan gay party so I think he was surprised by how few people he knew there. Fortunately, his winning smile and equally bulging t-shirt signaled that he would fit right in and it wouldn't take him long to meet anyone he wanted to meet.

Having them there with me was a little like taking a date to your high school reunion. I knew so many people, and far more than I actually know in real life. Charlie found us first, while we were still downstairs, drawn over by the siren song of my unmistakable laugh. Gray and Greg were upstairs, looking sharp as always. Chris Stadler was there, though I didn't even get to say hi, it was so crowded. Ben Harvey was a thin slice of blond heaven, a drunk Patsy to Dave Rubin's smashed Edina. Matty was running around taking a hundred and one photos and he positively melted like chocolate on your tongue when I asked him about Austria. Matty took a couple of good snaps of me with Young Bradford who was sad I was spending this weekend in Florida working instead of helping to keep Matty entertained out in the country with them. He introduced me to another guy also named Bradford. "How dare you!" I said to this new interloping Bradford, to which our Bradford whole-heartedly agreed, chiming in himself with a "Yes! How dare you!"Once again, I did everything I could to win over a stranger.

Matt and Chip didn't stay long, having to run off to Bianca's show further uptown. I hope they had fun. Matt sure seemed to enjoy dancing around to the music, although not as much as Corey Johnson, who twirled like a Drag Race contestant lipsyncing for his life. Needing to escape before I did any real damage, I looked for Joe and his cute friend Adam to say good-bye. Adam showered me with flirty attention the last time I saw him, but this time, he was chasing someone else. Naturally, being a self-centered monster, this hurt my feelings. So, I tugged on his suspenders a while, lifted him up a bit to kiss him on the neck and ran my fingers along the back of his ear until he asked me for my number. "Ask Joe for it!" I said as I kissed him good night, knowing full well that Joe doesn't have my number either.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to you because unlike Seth, I told you at the beginning of this conversation that I don't have any people skills. And I still don't.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Skinny And Sweet

My friend Danny Dias sent me a message last week saying he was bartending now at a new club night called "The Skinny." I assume the name is a reference to the old colloquial expression more than the weight of the intended patrons, but when I finally dropped by tonight, "The Skimpy" might be a more apt title. Having already experienced seeing some friends naked in porn (always surprising, no matter how many times THAT happens), you would think I would take seeing one of them in their underwear in stride. But there was Danny in all his adorable buffness, stripped down to a tiny pair of black briefs, a scene I was not expecting.

I had only planned to stay for a half hour max. Yesterday I was on death's door with a nasty cold, but this afternoon when I woke up, I was already feeling one thousand times better. Still, you shouldn't rush these things. So in the spirit of taking things easy and not causing the kind of relapse that might ruin my weekend, I endeavored to turn the evening into a quick post-work "hello" before driving back upstate to my nice warm flannel sheets. Besides, Matt Kugelman had said he would be bringing his skinny self to "The Skinny" too, so I could see both of them in short order and still watch Survivor and maybe even 30 Rock before bed.

Matt decided to hit Barrage first before storming "The Skinny" so I thought I might miss him altogether. The bar was somewhat deserted when I arrived, so I did my level best to keep Danny company while trying not to keep him so distracted that he missed what few tips might come his way. When you are friends with a bartender, it is always best to know when to slip quietly away from the bar for a bit so they can work and actually make some money. At the same time, I was anxious to catch up since we haven't seen each other in months and we have had a lot to talk about since then.

The bar started to fill a bit and then just as I was about to walk out, Matt Kugelman stumbled in. Suddenly, it was like playing Mystery Date and opening the door and finding the hunky beach date waiting for you. As Meryn Cadell so aptly sang in The Sweater, "You're looking for the boy of your dreams, who is the same boy in the dreams of all of your friends." That is Matt Kugelman. I can't wait to have him make an appearance at my Cinco de Mayo party just so I can watch all my single gay friends fight and fume and scowl over him all night.

I will admit that I didn't know Matt all that well before tonight. He is someone I run into a lot about town and he is always a lot of fun, not to mention easy on the eyes. And he laughs at my jokes and appreciates my obnoxious posts on his Facebook page and assorted photos. He has such a relaxed demeanor, though I admit some of that might have been brought on by the enormous amount of alcohol he had consumed. In retrospect, I don't know that I have ever seen him sober. He confided that he used to play dumb in high school so that he could get tutor time after school as a means to escape swim practice. And apparently his paint wasn't mixed properly but you will have to get him drunk on your own to see that part for yourself.

He was surrounded by a bunch of his friends, some I had met before (Chip) and others I had not. A few of them had recently joined the swelling ranks of the unemployed so he was taking them out for drinks. One of them, a confident blond 21 year old proudly drank a glass of straight vodka in front of us like water. "He'll be dead in a year," I offered. Two hours later, he was sitting nearby in a pale stupor, an untouched vodka cranberry resting in his crotch. On my way out for the evening, I fixed the collar of his shirt, which had become askew. He didn't seem to notice or care. "Maybe six months." I thought.

For a fleeting moment, I saw Ryan Raz, who had apparently been there for more than an hour, but I caught him as he was running out. We just had dinner on Tuesday night after the show at our usual hangout Vynl, but it is always nice to see him again. Having already gotten the skinny on Danny and on Matt, I realized too that it was time to head home. Danny was busy at the bar dealing with a variety of drunken characters. Matt was consoling his friends and trying to convince Danny to toss cherries into his mouth. My work here was done. I swung through McDonald's on my way to the parking garage for a nice ten piece McNugget meal to go. Granted, a meal like that won't get me to skinny personally, but I had already had my fill of skinny for one night.