Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Single Man

A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, is based on a Christopher Isherwood novel. As such, it features an older Brit who has to fend off the advances of one young hunk after another. It should have been called A Lucky Man.

Colin Firth plays the Brit, and it’s the role of a lifetime for him, a likely Oscar nomination if only for the terrific scene near the beginning of the film, when he receives a phone call telling him that his lover of 16 years has been killed in a car crash. Firth’s acting is very moving, likewise in a scene where he and Julianne Moore, channeling Lynn Redgrave, talk about their past intimacy, and what could never be.

The movie is a tad overdirected. There are a million extreme close-ups of eyeballs and lips, and lots of scenes of nude men underwater. There’s also a bleached colour palate, rendering whole scenes in sepia. As a fashionista, Ford should have heeded the old adage to look in the mirror and take off one thing before going out the door. It’s hard not to admire his enthralling attention to period detail, though (the story is set in 1962). The tiny Aspirin container certainly jarred my memories. But what to make of the unfortunate comic suicide attempt?

The whole time I was watching, I kept thinking about the documentary Chris and Don, about Isherwood’s long-term relationship with the much younger artist, Don Bachardy. Apparently, they called each other by the nicknames 'Cat' and 'Horse'. A Single Man is thankfully free of that level of cuteness, but the sad tale isn’t quite sad enough.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wine Australia

Wine Australia held a launch of their new products at Sassafraz Restaurant in Yorkville on August 18, 2009. The purpose was to promote wines for the holiday season, even if it is several months away. It seemed odd to be listening to Christmas music on a hot August day, but when the spread is as awesome as this one, you really shouldn’t quibble.

My press kit tells me that Australia is the fourth largest wine exporter in the world, shipping 2.5 million bottles to over 100 countries annually. I figured as much, considering that everybody I know drinks Yellow Tail Shiraz. But the sheer variety of the wines on display this day couldn’t help but impress.

Wine Australia has created a brand strategy that divides wine makers into four categories. They are Brand Champions (the usual stuff that everyone buys at the liquor store); Generation Next (for people “who drink wine for social occasion and/or peer group affinity, rather than for wine attribute alone”); Regional Heroes (“These are wines from somewhere rather than wines from anywhere”); and Landmark Australia (consisting largely of expensive stuff found in nice restaurants like Sassafraz).

Typically of a tasting, one is given a glass with which to sample various brands. A tiny bit is poured, and you’re supposed to swish it around and smell it, but I just want to knock it back. I start with some chilled whites that look perfect on this sticky, humid day. The Terra Barossa Riesling 2008 ($14.95) is refreshing, as is the Leconfield Chardonnay 2008 ($22.95). Then I hop over to the red table and sample the Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz Viognier 2008 ($17.30) and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($19.95), both of which go down quite nicely. By now, I’m feeling a bit tizzy, so it was clearly time to visit the food table.

Here’s where Sassafraz has a chance to show off. The pile of prosciutto makes me happy, as does the crisp spinach salad with pumpkin seeds. Over at the hot table, a cute chef doles out the rarest rack of lamb and the biggest grilled prawns I’ve seen in ages. There is also a perfect potato salad and chocolates painted different metallic colours. I didn’t even touch the giant turkey with stuffing and cranberries, as I was just too full.

Finally, it was time to celebrate with a sparkling wine, and here is where the event went into overdrive. The Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling ($20.00) was crisp, delicious and dry, a near-perfect drink at a near-perfect event. I adore wine tasting, and when the company puts out a ravishing spread like Wine Australia and Sassafraz did on this day, it’s hard not to go home happy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Razzle Dazzle

Jason Dinetz is a showman. His most recent presentation was called Razzle Dazzle, performed at Goodhandy’s on Aug. 8 and 9. At first I wasn’t even sure I was in Goodhandy’s, as Jason covered all of the naked men pictures with his own posters.

Jason’s commitment to his work is absolute. The production values were outstanding. The cast consisted of Jason and five lovely ladies (Rachelle Ganesh, Tara Joshi, Melissa Yang, Jackie Wood, and Jennifer Fell). They did more than back him up, they took the stage with bold choreography and one of the girls even does an aerial act.

Really, the whole show was very effective. Interspersed with the musical numbers was video playback, the best being his parody of MTV’s Cribs. Less effective was a reel of testimonials, my own included. We don’t need to hear how fabulous he is – we can see it. If I question anything, it might be Jason’s own costumes, verging on S&M Gap. I watched the whole show with Goodhandy’s security dude Matthew Pierce, and the two of us were dumbfounded over the artfully placed trousers zipper applied to Jason’s face during one particular number.

There were performances of “Ray of Light” and “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago, as well as several songs from his own CD, Inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the stark presentation of the ballad “So Long Till Next Time”. But there were also whips and chains and masks and the whole show ended with a fire act. It was fine breathless entertainment. If things don’t work out for Jason Dinetz the performer, not to worry. Anyone who can mount a show like this would certainly flourish behind the scenes as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bare, the Musical

Bare is a rock musical about Catholic school kids wrestling with sexuality, chiefly homosexuality. The Canadian premiere runs at Hart House Theatre until August 1. The show, written by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo, was first presented in Los Angeles in 2000, and its in the same vein as Rent, Spring Awakening, and other musicals geared towards a young audience. In the interest of full disclosure, I left at intermission. My eyes were sore from rolling. So this review is based on only half the show. Who knows, maybe Act Two was exponentially better.

I don’t want to be unfair to the show, from WatersEdge Productions. The young cast give it their all, though they are not helped by either the bizarre set design or the terrible sound mix. The audience, largely made up of students, seemed to know the material and got the jokes. It helped, also, that they over-reacted to the guys kissing on stage, making it seem all the more controversial.

The problem lies in the writing. The lyrics are horrible. So much sanctimony, so many ‘poor me-isms’. It was easy to hate the characters, gay and straight alike. The story concerns a mope named Peter (Wade Muir), full of love for an ambiguous flirt named Jason (Graham Parkhurst). Their tale is irritating, and so is the story of Nadia, a dumpy fat girl with a mean streak. As much as I disliked her character, I did think the actress, Claire Rouleau, did a great job, especially with the crybaby song “A Quiet Night At Home”. The show’s real standout, however, is Nichola Lawrence, a fat black girl playing a sassy nun who brought the stage to life whenever she appeared.

I grew up both Catholic and gay. I no longer consider myself either, although the men I have sex with might disagree. Apparently, I still give head like a Catholic. Perhaps it is because of this that I could barely sit through Bare. The subject matter felt beneath me. However, I loved the poster, which depicts a hot boy’s bare chest, a crucifix and two male arms ensnaring him. I wish I had enjoyed the show as much as I enjoy the poster.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Challenging Traditions

Growing up in Canada, we were always exposed to First Nations art, and frankly, it all looked the same. So when my friend Gary, a fan of such work, asked me to accompany him to the McMichael Gallery for a show, I was indifferent.

Until I saw the show. Called Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast, it runs until September 20, 2009. Much of the work is sculptural. Native artists love to carve wood, especially yellow cedar, and no one is better at it. But the whole point of the exhibit is to show Native artists working with non-traditional materials, like silver gilt, lacquered aluminum, or etched glass. Gary’s favorite piece showed an eagle in attack mode, mounted atop a Celtic cross. “That’s my next tattoo,” he exclaimed. I also enjoyed the box of etched glass, lit from inside, which threw wild shadows on the wall; the raven made of black glass; and the gigantic head mask that made me think about what it would be like to be Jack of the Beanstalk fame. There are also incredible totem poles and silver bracelets and carved boxes painted in lovely shades of blue and red.

As we wandered through the gallery, Gary wondered what each individual piece might cost. A fortune, I’m sure. Much of the imagery is scary, mythical, breathtaking, but rarely sexual. More than half of it left me in awe. Later, in the gift shop, I flipped through the exhibition catalogue and it confirmed my belief, that seeing pictures of a magnificent sculpture cannot begin to compare with seeing it from a distance of two feet.

The McMichael Gallery is a nice place, very calm and clean. It proudly boasts the fact that it is 100% Canadian. This is one of the more interesting art exhibits I’ve seen in a long time, well worth the drive to Kleinberg.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Sondheim Shows

On Wednesday, June 17, Howard Kane and I drove all the way to the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake to take in a matinee of Sunday In the Park with George, at the Royal George Theatre. We were by far the youngest people there, a busload of seniors from something called ElderHostel having been bussed in earlier. Being Sondheim fanatics, we couldn’t wait for it to start, but 20 minutes into the performance, I could tell that it wasn’t working for either of us. Howard blamed the leads, Steven Sutcliffe and Julie Martell, but he also didn’t like the directing by Alisa Palmer. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what didn’t click. It’s a very ambitious play, and I certainly admired the stagecraft, with all those gauze-covered panels zipping back and forth recreating the painting of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The music was also well performed. It wasn’t until I went home and watched a DVD of the original production, starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, that I realized that Howard was probably right.

Just two weeks earlier, Howard had directed a version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, starring the teenagers he teaches at his school, the Children’s Theatre Project in Richmond Hill. I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more than Shaw’s George. Maybe it was the sight of cute kids struggling with such tough songs. Woods is a simpler, sweeter show, an examination of what happens after the Happily Ever After part of fairy tales. Sunday, an examination of the cost of creativity, spares no one, even providing a second act set in the bloated art market of the 80s. But both shows are so damn well written that almost any production would satisfy. At his best, Sondheim was better than anyone else. Both those kids Howard teaches and the actors at Shaw must benefit from performing such excellent material.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Was Barbie

Nina Arsenault’s I Was Barbie is a monologue about how she was hired to portray Mattel’s signature dolly at Fashion Week. She takes us through the tale chronologically, from the initial phone call to the moment she got home that night. And what a tale it is.

Arsenault is one of Canada’s most renowned transpersons, and I Was Barbie is one of three shows she hopes to tour (the other two chronicle her dozens of surgeries necessary for her transformation, and a more serious story of a spell spent in a loony bin). She’s an old friend of mine, a former co-star of the gay sports comedy series Locker Room that aired on PrideVision about five years ago. We always had fun together. Now, she brings that spirit of fun to the stage.

Theatre is the ideal place for Arsenault. After all, she has two masters degrees in theatre from York University, and god knows she is truly something to behold. Last year, she starred in Ladylike, a somewhat sanctimonious Sky Gilbert play that didn’t do it for me. Her own writing is another story. I Was Barbie is not afraid to trash Canadian celebrities like Ben Mulroney, and it offers a rather thorough look at not just Fashion Week, but the nature of fashion itself, a world dominated by “really cunty ladies” and gay volunteers wearing headsets that reminded her of Battlestar Galactica crew members.

There is much talk of line-ups and VIP lists, but the best part is after the fashion show, when she is conscripted to pass out pink cupcakes to the jaded crowd. To reinforce the point, Arsenault ends the show by passing out a tray of the very same. The audience loved it. In fact, much of the monologue was accompanied by photos of the very things she was talking about, as though to offer proof that she was not lying. She needn’t have worried – with or without the proof, it’s a hilarious and fascinating look at the world of fashion, and best of all, ends on a positive note. The show was presented at Tallulah's Cabaret as part of a Buddies in Bad Times fundraiser, but let's hope it gets a longer run in the future. It's well worth seeing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gallery at 129 Ossington

Gallery at 129 Ossington hosted the openings of both Kate Domina and Neil Young on June 4, 2009. The two shows couldn’t be more different, but both were quite good.

Domina occupied the front half with her show, All my Friends are Imaginary, a collection of oil on canvas consisting mostly of portraits of bratty blonde children. The wit and style seemed to capture the crowd. One picture depicted a sour-faced little girl in a red polka dot dress, and in her breast pocket sits a miniature version of herself. My other favorite canvas featured another pouting child sporting antlers, with a little bird nestled atop. Hilarious, but also touching. Domina herself is a bright blonde, and clearly talented.

The back rooms were occupied by Nature and the City Abstracts, a series of resin-glossed paintings by Neil Young. His colour sense is fabulous, with the most seductive blues and greens. It’s his first show, but won’t be his last. It’s the type of art that sits comfortably in art galleries, upper class livingrooms, or gungy studios. If I had money, I’d buy one for my gungy upper class living room. Young gave up a career in architecture to become a painter. Despite the fact that he has famous name syndrome, he will probably do quite well as an artist.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Matthew Rush

He was voted the Number One Porn Star by Fab Readers! He’s big and golden and pumped up! He’s more than just a guy with a huge dick! He’s Matthew Rush, Superstar!

I was quite excited to interview Rush by phone from his Florida home. Sadly, when the call took place, he was on a tin can speakerphone. He mumbled, and I can’t be sure, but I think he was even on the treadmill at the time. He even had the TV on in the background, playing Mama’s Family or some such noisy sitcom. I could barely hear a word that he was saying. I was in a panic. I did not want to interrupt or reschedule the interview. I figured I would just ask questions blindly and hope that I could still transcribe the conversation. A big if.

Rush is promoting Brief Encounters, his first movie for a studio other than Falcon, with whom he once held a “lifetime” contract. His new studio, Pantheon Productions, specializes in daddy porn. Rush may be 36, but if he qualifies as a daddy, then I’m a granddaddy.

For the record, Matthew Rush was born in Ohio. As a young man, he had a choice between becoming a clown or becoming a body builder, so he split the difference and became a porn star. He also branched out, starring in the play Making Porn and appearing in Another Gay Movie. He’s competed as a body builder under his real name, Greg Grove. His muscles have muscles.

We spoke for about ten minutes. I strained to hear what he was saying. I soldiered on. Thankfully, when I played back the tape, I could make out about thirty per cent of what he said. I present to you now a transcript of that thirty per cent.

PB: I don’t know if anyone told you, but Fab readers chose you as their most favorite adult movie star.

MR: No way, really? I’m flattered.

PB: Are you familiar with Toronto?

MR: I love Toronto. I have friends who live there, and I’ve come for a couple of Prides.

PB: What was it like working with Pantheon Productions on Brief Encounters?

MR: It was a little different than what I was used to. Everybody was great, fun to work with. I was conditioned to Falcon’s way of doing things. I was with them for nine years. I shot it with my workout partner Tim Kelly, which was a little weird. It turned out pretty good.

PB: What was Falcon like, overall?

MR: Falcon’s a great company. They treated me like gold.

PB: What do you do when you’re not doing porn?

MR: I’m a personal trainer. I used to compete in bodybuilding competition until about four years ago.

PB: Do you think you’ll keep doing porn?

MR: I would like to move to behind the camera. I directed a video for Falcon and for Manhunt. I’d like to be able to do more of that.

PB: How did it all start?

MR: I was living in Columbus, Ohio. I was recruited at a bar by a scout. At the time I had no desire to do it. But then the gym was sold and I was out of a job. So I thought I’d do three or four and then be on my merry way. It didn’t happen that way.

PB: Do you recommend porn as a career?

MR: It’s a lot of hard work, but it can be a good time.

PB: Any last words for all your Toronto fans?

MR: If it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I love you guys. I really do.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mr. Bullock to you

The following article appears in an edited form in issue #371 of Fab Magazine.

In 1980 a fledgling stand-up comedian named Jim J. Bullock was cast in Ted Knight’s ABC sitcom Too Close for Comfort. His character, Monroe Ficus, was the perfect comic foil for Knight, and an instant hit. After a seven year run that made Monroe a household name, Bullock went on to Hollywood Squares, Queer Duck, a talk show with Tammy Faye Baker, the stage version of Hairspray, and an atrocious Canadian tween comedy called Boogie’s Diner. Bullock is coming to town to host a version of Match Game at Maggie Cassella’s comedy fest, We’re Funny That Way, on May 7th.

Paul: Hey, Jim. Is this your first trip to Toronto?

Jim: No, I actually lived there for a year in the mid 90s doing a series called Boogie’s Diner.

P: I remember that. Your proudest achievement?

J: Yes, Paul, it’s what I want to be remembered for.

P: How do you know Maggie Cassella?

J: I met her a year ago in Palm Springs, and she asked if I would come up and do this.

P: You’ll be hosting her Match Game, which I suppose will remind you of your days on Hollywood Squares.

J: I’d blow a monkey to be back on Hollywood Squares for real right now. That was my favorite job. Apart from Boogie’s Diner, of course.

P: Was it fun making Too Close for Comfort?

J: It was hard work. I moved out to L.A. in 1977, started doing stand-up, and then got Too Close. It was the biggest thing to happen to me.

P: Monroe was this giant character. You were like Urkel.

J: Yeah, that’s a compliment.

P: What keeps you busy these days?

J: A lot of theatre. Isn’t theatre the bone yard for old TV celebrities? “Let’s remount Pippin, and Jim J. can do the Irene Ryan role. (singing) Back in my younger days …” I love working in any capacity, and theatre has opened itself up to me. I got to do Hairspray on Broadway. I’m 55, and didn’t think Broadway would ever happen, and when it did, I thought Oh my God, how amazing. Just when I thought it was over for me, a whole other dream is revealed. But now I’m back in L.A. working on a non-scripted show. You just keep kicking and something will turn up.

P: You were one of the first out gay comedians.

J: Monroe was not supposed to be gay, but it’s sort of like how Oprah’s black. You just can’t fool the public, butch as I tried to be. I had some real struggles with it. I grew up Southern Baptist, and I was not comfortable. It was not a time to be out. So I don’t feel like a pioneer in that regard. It was just the way it happened. When Hollywood Squares came along, well, I’m a big cocksucker and we all know it, so this is who I am, accept me or don’t. But that wasn’t until the late 80s. People have come up to me over the years and thanked me for being out. I had a guy call me on a radio show. He said “Jim J., I’m 48 years old and I just came out to my dad, who is 80, and my dad said Why didn’t you tell me this years ago? I said that I was afraid of his reaction, and he said, ‘Yeah but you know I like that Monroe on Too Close for Comfort’.”

P: How do other gay celebrities treat you?

J: I was at the Emmys a few years ago and all the Queer Eye guys were flipping out over meeting me. I was so honoured.

P: You tested positive early on, like 85?

J: Oh, it’s probably petrified by now. You know, I have never been ill or even had to take any therapy drugs.

P: So how do you take care of yourself?

J: Vodka. But I mix it with cranberry juice, so that’s healthy. I’m blessed beyond measure to have the health I have. I’ve got a lot of Scarlet O’Hara in me, a lot of denial going on. You know that quality where you go “Fiddle dee dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow,” that kind of thing? It has worked both for me and against me. With AIDS, I just gave it no energy. When I first found out, I just put it out of my head for a year. I just couldn’t process it, until a year later, when I went to some AIDS benefit here in L.A., and I just snapped. But only for a short time. I didn’t tell anyone for several years. I was ashamed of it, but I never thought I was going to die of AIDS, and I still don’t think I’m going to die of AIDS. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to die during this phone call of AIDS. Oh, shit, is that a pimple? I remember when my partner John was dying, and I was in the hospital room with him, and yet I had a really strong feeling that I am not going to go this way. My liver will go out first.

P: Are you in a relationship now?

J: No, I haven’t been in a loving relationship since John. That’s 15 years ago. I have a cat. Sometimes, I think maybe I’m fine with a cat.

P: Before we go, I know Fab readers would not forgive me if I didn’t ask you about what it was like to work with Tammy Faye.

J: I adored Tammy. Not to say that there weren’t times when if I had a really sharp butter knife I would have cut her throat. Working with her was a challenge, but at the same time it was an incredible delight. She really was like Pandora’s Box, you never knew what was going to come out. She was one hundred per cent genuine. She practiced what she preached, which was love and acceptance. It doesn’t get better than that.

P: Great. See you in Toronto, Jim J.

J: Thanks, Paul. Bye.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Deep Compassion

A man breaks out of a correctional facility and speeds off on a motorcycle. He meets up with some accomplices, who take him to a cabin in the woods. The only occupant of the cabin is the blind brother of one of the accomplices. (The second guy completely, mysteriously disappears.) I really enjoyed watching actor David Arlen pretend to be blind. When was the last time you saw a guy in a porn movie acting blind? Never. That's because A Deep Compassion was made in 1972, when pornos were films first, smut second.

Blindy gets freaked out by the sounds of his brother blowing the Jailbird, so he goes into the woods and talks to the trees. "Can you hear me?" he asks, and a hunky Forest God materializes and puts a fatherly hand on Blindy's shoulder. Their clothes vanish and Forest God fucks Blindy's face. This film could not get any weirder.

But it does. Jailbird rapes Blindy, who proceeds to have the most hysterical, over-the-top screaming fit in the history of gay cinema. He keeps up the hysterics through the whole scene, making it rather uncomfortable to enjoy. The overdramatic music doesn't help, either. Jailbird takes a satisfied nap afterwards, while Blindy grabs a poker and bashes his skull in, set to the familiar strains of Bernard Herrman's Psycho score. Blindy runs screaming into the forest and falls off a cliff to his death, but then Forest God comes to him and their spirits go off into the sunset together.

They don't make them like this anymore.

Latin Initiation

Fierce Dog Pictures presents Latin Initiation: Latin Interview Boys 2, in which the filmmakers went into the streets of Mexico to find hot boys. The finalists are highlighted, and each gives a long interview in Mexican. Never before have I had to read subtitles with my cock in one hand. The best moment was when this one kid, exercising while wearing knee-high embroidered cowboy boots, gets a call from his mom. I think it's interesting, too, that the word "casting" seems to be their euphemism for "have gay sex in front of a camera crew". But ultimately a porn movie is only as hot as the guys in it, and I couldn't pick many favorites out of this bunch.

Skyler's Sex Adventures

If a boring, overlong interview with a blonde twink is your idea of Heaven, then you'll love the bonus features on 18 West Studios' new Skyler's Sex Adventures. The movie consists mostly of scenes of Skyler jerking off. He also has sex with Chase Himmel and Brooke Daniels, both of who will grow up to be sexy men one day.

I hate Skyler DeVoss. His gay voice is an erection killer, and watching him frou frou up his ridiculous hair made me violent. Aren't those fucking faux hawks over already? Maybe it's just me, but I want my gay porn stars - twinks included - to act like men, not petulant girls. Horrible stuff.


Despite its coarse title, Jet Set's Screwed strives for seriousness. It opens with B&W footage and piano music, a sure sign of artsy ambitiousness. The story concerns a bunch of hot guys in prison. When I interviewed director Chris Steele last summer, we talked about how a lot of gay porn models end up in jail for one reason or another. Perhaps this is meant as a homage.

There are major acting scenes, and Steele gets credible performances out of his models. Screenwriter John Tegan has fun with the concept as well, as when an anal cavity search turns into a hot fingering. (The puns continue. One guy is in jail for cockfighting.) The main plot concerns a corrupt guard who sells drugs to the inmates. Expect comeuppance.

It's hard to say who's hotter - the guards, or the prisoners. Regardless, this is a terrific prison fantasy, way less gloomy and feel-bad than Oz. Although Screwed isn't likely to lead to prison reform, it does confirm what I've always expected - that incarceration is inherently homoerotic.

Finding Me

Finding Me, a new DVD from TLA Releasing, is about gay black men who are so not ghetto. Since I'm accustomed to seeing black guys shoot each other on The Wire, I can barely make sense of these nice black men with no guns. It's almost science fiction.

At first the romance is sweet, but chaste, and when it finally happens, you realize that there's really no story, except for a B plot concerning the old-fashioned father. Most of the comedy comes from the sassy black chick, one of those junior Wanda Sykes types. But the protagonist is such a drip I can't imagine what the hunk sees in him.

The film's director, Roger S. Omeus Jr., says in an interview that he was inspired by E. Lynn Harris. Now it all makes sense. Probably the most interesting thing about this movie is that it introduced me to the term "same gender loving", which some of these people feel is less prejudicial than the word "gay". Again with the science fiction. All the same, the movie's got such a good spirit that it's easy to overlook the clumsy compositions and atrocious audio and bland performances and overlong running time. That title doesn't do it any favours, either.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Howard Stern Show

Gay activists often comb the airwaves looking for fair and accurate representations of gay people, but I never hear any of them talk about The Howard Stern Show. Available only on satellite radio, the show presents a rather complete picture of how different races and orientations can get along - by ribbing each other.

It is not to everyone's tastes, and those easily offended - the umbrage community - would just carp. But those of us who enjoy a good laugh and who can take a teasing must be pleasantly surprised. Stern, a genius when it comes to open discussion, staffs his show with such diverse personalities as Robin Quivers (female, heterosexual, black, educated, upwardly mobile), renowned stand-up comedian Artie Lange (male, heterosexual, fat, New Jerseyish, filled with heterosexist prejudices), and former Star Trek star George Takai (male, homosexual, Asian, sophisticated, considerably older). No one is spared. At a recent evening out, Quivers, a bit of a wine snob, ordered an $800 bottle of wine. The others have never let her forget it.

The particular chemistry of these people as led by Stern (male, heterosexual, Jewish, neurotic) makes for marvelous radio. Along with other staffers and various guests, everyone is mocked. And because it's satellite radio, and therefore a subscription service with no censorship, the language and topics of discussion have no boundaries. Takai, who has talked at length about his relationship, spent a lot of time answering Stern's questions about giving head, and even admits to swallowing the occasional load. Why is this not news? Is it possible no gay or lesbian persons listen to satellite radio? (Stern claims to have anywhere from six to twenty million listeners.) Another jaw-dropping segment, courtesy of fellow radio host Greg Fitzsimmons, featured Margaret Cho talking about the day she had sex with six people at once. In this day and age of publicists and spin control, carefully sheparding a useless Jennifer Aniston around lest anyone dare ask her about Brad Pitt, it is refreshing to hear celebrities talk so openly about their sexual lives.

I could praise Stern's radio show all day. Its wanton disregard for propriety quickly weeds out the squares from the cool kids, although many of Stern's listeners seem to be apes. Never mistake the audience for the show, however. Not once in the years I have been listening did I ever feel insulted or humiliated. Lange, a total homophobe, makes me laugh out loud. I wouldn't want him to be anything but what he is, a modern Archie Bunker. (His advice to Jimmy Fallon as to how to make his new talk show more interesting? Waterboard the guests.) And Takai is an excellent elder spokesperson for the gay community. If he's not insulted by the fag jokes, why should I be?

The point is, as our world continues to drown in the hypocrisy of political correctness, Stern's show is the last bastion of this kind of racy, vulgar talk. It puts all of us on the same level, and serves to remind us that to mock someone is in essence to accept them for what they are, that blunt honesty is more important than any politcal agenda. This isn't just the greatest radio show of all time. It's one of the greatest shows of all time.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I use the imdb (The Internet Movie Datebase, every day. In fact, it's my home page. I'm always looking up the credits to some old movie, and for the most part, the imdb is a godsend, always providing detailed information that I could not find anywhere else on earth. And everything links! I could and have spent hours searching arcane movie credits. I'm just that kind of guy.

And the end of every listing is a review. They are written by users rather than by critics or film profs. I'm sure the imdb created it with the best intentions, to put the average person's point of view across. When it comes to movies, everyone's a critic, and rightly so, as movies practically beg the viewer for a response. But the published entries are none too deep. The learned opinion is passe, and people with no sense of history write reviews as though movies only dated back a few decades. Here are three typical imdb reviews, slightly edited but with all the spelling and grammar errors intact:

I found this movie to be very compelling in many ways. The emotions felt here were not cheap gimmicks but that of feeling true sympathy. I can't remember another film that made me feel these emotions for a character. This film succeeded in ways that almost movie would likely fail in. This is a film that is amazingly thought provoking and will bring out the humanity within all of us and should not be missed.

I had the honor of watching this during a screening and was completely blown away! This is one of the best movie ever made. Everything in this film is excellent, not one piece of annoyance. It deserves any and every movie award known to man for this brilliant display. The director has made his "I will always be remembered" movie, this is the crownjewel in his portfolio. Perfect directing, perfect story, perfect balance between action and drama, everything is perfect. You will love this film. If you don't, then something beez wrongz with youz!

Yes, I said it's dumb. The quality of the acting is bad. The costumes look like they came from the local fabric store sales rack. Pretty low budget flick. The writing is elementary. The use of cheap actor's to play secondary rolls is quite obvious. Some of the camera shots, POV, are poorly done. Not for the intelligent viewer.

And unfortunately, not for the intelligent film lover either. When I want to know if Priscilla Presley ever won an acting award (yes she did, a Soap Opera Digest award for Exciting New Actress in a Prime Time Soap Opera for Dallas back in '78), I go to imdb and thank it profusely afterwards. But when I want to read a review of a movie, I'll look somewhere else.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oscar Season

It is Oscar season. Here are random observations on some of the nominated films.

1. Favorite scene of the year #1: When Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in Doubt, shows his young male students his perfect fingernails, his hand splayed to welcome their admiration.

2. Favorite scene of the year #2: The flamenco dance instructor in Happy-Go-Lucky stomping the floor and commanding her students to claim it as "my space!"

3. In Slumdog Millionaire, the protagonist dives into the bottom of an outhouse. In Trainspotting, the protagonist dives into a toilet. What is it with director Danny Boyle and diving?

4. Scariest image all year? The frozen river in Frozen River.

5. Was The Wrestler a Canadian movie? Bleak setting, down'n'out protagonist, no real story or ending - I hope it wins the Genie.

6. The Reader sported the year's most ridiculous suicide scene. Director Stephen Daldry excels in ridiculous suicides. Remember The Hours?

7. Revolutionary Road. Move to fucking France already, goddamit.

8. Clint Eastwood's Changeling and Gran Torino show him to be the least nice old man on the planet. His skill as a director, however, just keeps growing. I can hardly wait to see what kind of movie he'll be making ten, twenty years from now.

9. Milk has the best drunk scene of the year, thanks to Josh Brolin (also so good in W.). I am stunned, however, by how few of my gay friends even bothered to see Milk.

10. Ralph Fiennes. So very good in The Duchess and In Bruges. So very bad in Bernard and Doris.

11. The sight of little ancient Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - vomitlicious!

12. Waltz with Bashir pointed the way to depicting graphic violence on screen - by rotoscoping it. I wish they would do that to all those horrid Saw movies.

13. My favorite movie wasn't even nominated for anything. How could the Academy ignore the visual poetry that was Cloverfield? I could watch that monster chew up New York City every day.

14. Meryl Streep. So very, very good in Doubt. So dignified against all odds in Mamma Mia!

15. Oscars are idiotic, but all the same, I'd love to see Milk, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, Josh Brolin and Gus van Sant win, but unfortunately for them, they didn't make a comeback and/or die, like some of the other nominees.

And as always, I pray for a dance number to exceed the garishness of Rob Lowe's legendary duet with Cinderella, still the high water mark for tacky.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A New Brain

The musical A New Brain, at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs, is remarkable, first for its writing, and secondly for the level of performance in this well-directed production.

It is a musical about a gay guy who writes songs for a children's show starring a man in a frog suit. One day, while lunching with his hag, he has a health crisis and is admitted to the hospital. His mother and boyfriend and the hag all rush around him as he lay there, on the brink. He hallucinates, they operate, he survives and flourishes. The subplot involves his mother throwing away all his books because she believes they brought on his brain pain, and they end up in a homeless woman's shopping cart. None of this sounds like it could be funny, moving and entertaining, but it is, because the show's author, William Finn, wrote from his own experiences, and he can write a great song.

Many of the songs are a reminder of how daring musical theatre can be. I enjoyed the fat actor singing a song about being fat, and the mother has some great numbers, and the Asian actor playing the doctor is hilarious. But the showstopper is when Thom Allison sings "I'd Rather Be Sailing", a classic example of how an actor with a strong voice can literally elevate the entire audience and keep them there.

The set, mostly clinical white drapes and glass bricks, is striking. As my theatre-going companion Howard Kane said between sobs, it's great to sit through a musical that does not require amplification. Plus I love a show with no intermission. This production, from Mitchell Marcus' Acting Up Stage, earned a standing ovation on opening night, not a surprise. This is a great night of theatre.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chris & Don: A Love Story

The documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story chronicles the intergenerational love affair between the writer Christopher Isherwood and the artist Don Bachardy. They met when Isherwood was 46, a full thirty years older than little Bachardy. Bachardy was quite a morsel when he was young. Who wouldn't want that? But still, Isherwood's friends must have been creeped out by the whole thing, moreso since Isherwood initially slept with Bachardy's slightly older brother first.

They stayed together forever, and when Isherwood lay dying in their home, Bachardy furiously sketched him, and kept sketching him even after he died. I suppose that's romantic. Much is made in the film of their cutesy nicknames to each other - Isherwood was Horse, and Bachardy was Cat. There's tons of dire animation featuring these critter aliases. The low point is when, during a rough patch, Bachardy sends Isherwood an apologetic letter signed "Your overwrought pussy." Indeed, this might have made a good title for the film.

The filmmaker's biggest problem is convincing people that it is not horrible for an aging British fag to fall in love and live with a teenage boy. As gay men, we know that there really isn't much difference in a gay man's nature, whether he is 16 or 86. Being horny for cock certainly brings everyone up to speed, and anyway, big deal. I know lots of gay couples with vast age differences between them.

Nevertheless, in a review for NOW Magazine, Susan G. Cole goes out of her way to rationalize the relationship, saying that the elder cared for the boy "almost as a father might for a son. Yet you get the sense that the connection was hugely productive and wholly healthy." Oh thank God for that.

But wait, there's more. Susan G. Cole finishes her missive with this admonishment: "For all you chicken hawks out there, don't think this doc gives permission for older gays to exploit young people. This story unfolds in a particular time and place. And just about everything - including the development of a vast network of queer youth - has changed. Hands off."

Wow. Does Susan G. Cole think chicken hawks read her reviews, and does she think that they would require permission to do what they do, and that they would find that permission in this slightly dull and earnest documentary?

Who's the overwrought pussy now?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chris and John To the Rescue

Chris and John To the Rescue launched its third season at the Gladstone Hotel on Jan. 31. The show's stars and creators, John Simpson and Chris Carter, showed both the first (double) episode and the third episode of the comedy series, which airs on Out TV in Canada.

The evening kicked off with a performance from the show's co-star, Brian Doyle, who karaoked to Womanizer, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Single Ladies, in that order. His voice is nothing to write home about, but you got to give him credit for daring to take on Britney, Beyonce, and Art Garfunkel. Say what you will, few people on earth have a voice as pretty as Art Garfunkel's.

The first episode, which takes place at a gay campground near Chicago, is about how Chris and John help a single gay camper find a partner. The single guy is a bit bland, but their choices for a boyfriend are outrageous - a blue-eyed boy with lamb chop sideburns, a black queen called Princess, an eye-rolling prima donna named Gio, and a very tiny guy with humongous ears. Gio got all the laughs. He should get his own show. I didn't really understand the comedy, but maybe it's a generational thing. One of my young companions said that I missed all the subtle references to Popular. All I could think while I watch watching the show was, Gee, boys nowadays are so unafraid to be completely, annoyingly queeny all the time.

No free drinks, but there were gift bags, namely a Telus Mobility shopping tote with a Gund goldfish inside. I was starving the whole time I was watching the screening. You'd think Telus, or Gund, or Out TV, would have pitched in fifty bucks for a bowl of pretzels or celery sticks or something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hot House Backroom Exclusive Videos 8 and Wood Work

It must seem like all I ever do is write about porn, but I can't help it. Porn companies keep sending me their product for free in exchange for mentioning it. Would you give up a deal like that?

I like porn. It's a world unto itself, a very dumb world, but a valid one nonetheless. One of the better porn companies around is Hot House Video, who recently sent me their new releases, Hot House Backroom Exclusive Videos 8 and Wood Work.

HHBEV8 is pure sex, with no horrible acting parts, thank God. When will porn companies realize that most of us fast-forward through all that acting crap anyway? HHBEV8 is a compilation of scenes available on the company's website, collected for DVD release. Hot House distinguishes itself with great lighting, often incorporating natural light through windows to create halo effects. The first, featuring cutie pie Kirk Cummings, benefits from both the sunlight and groovy bed sheets.

Other scenes feature Kai Ford, whose leg tattoo continues to drive me batty. What would possess him to get such a thing? His hair is marvelous, though. Other stars include balding butch Johnny Gunn, so my type, with those mutton chop sideburns and that nasty sneer. He's a superb top, undulating that flat belly while fucking some guy on the back of a pickup truck. I could watch Johnny Gunn all day long. What a great star he is.

The other release, Wood Work, is the porn I've been waiting for all my life. I loved the theme of wood (erection) and wood work (sitting on that erection) and tying it in visually with a set consisting of raw lumber and power saws (big tools) plus the use of macho, hairy, muscular studs. The makers of this product have correctly identified construction sites as one of the most erotic and manly environments ever. The handsome cast even features two black actors, and although everyone's hot, I have a little fave in Tim Kruger, a big boy with big boy parts. Can you imagine having sex with someone like that in real life? Holy cow. I like him because when he fucks in a standing position it looks like he's walking down the street. Some actual thought went into this movie. Then factor in Hot House's ability to light their sets better than most other porn companies and you have a winner.

But Hot House, you're really got to stop with the 20 minutes of trailers and endless promo bullshit before the feature. Relax, girl. Your product sells itself.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama Is Nailin' Palin

Huster Video's Obama Is Nailin' Palin is in the worst possible taste, but if anything, it points to the democratizing power of porn, treating both red and blue candidates with equal derision.

It doesn't take much to do Sarah Palin. All you need is fishbowl glasses and the soccer mom haircut, but I have to say that Lisa Ann does pull it off quite well. She almost made me forget about Tina Fay.

Obama Is Nailin' Palin features a dream sequence (I think), in which Guy DiSilva, as Obama, comes to her on horseback. He is dressed sort of like a Roman centurion, and she is sort of dressed like a damsel in distress, so right away you have a collision of epochs. But let's focus on what's important, that Lisa Ann has huge implants. This video is also great for guys who have an eyeglasses fetish. In the end, when Obama finally blows a load on Sarah Palin's face, it kind of makes you glad that things worked out the way they did.

The behind the scenes footage has Lisa Ann declaring that impersonating Palin has made her a bit of a media star, a "life-changing experience". The other notable thing about the behind the scenes footage is the fact that the horse is in the background of almost every single shot. Leave it to pornographers to milk every last cent's worth of an expensive prop.

The rest of the almost three hour video is comprised of various interracial scenes, mostly giant cock black dudes paired with little white sluts in fishnets. The penises are rather intimidating, but thanks to movies like this, and HBO shows like Oz and The Wire, black actors are finally getting some good roles.

Obama Is Nailin' Palin is available through

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Omi Sushi

I've been to Hiro and Kaji and they're both great, but Omi Sushi (on Carlton at Parliament, not the one on Church Street) is the best sushi restaurant in town, positively transcendent. Chef John Lee is prone to experimenting. Lately, he's been in the news for his habit of searing nigiri with a blowtorch before serving.

Lee is also famous, at least in my books, for his fine work with white tuna (or albacore as it is commonly known). He gets it fresh from the Pacific coast, the very same catch that ends up in those little cans from Cloverleaf. But the difference between what Lee serves and what comes in a can is like the difference between ice cream and shoe polish. White tuna has a soft, elegant, subtle taste, and Lee dazzles when he drizzles roast garlic oil on top, making the flavour combust.

On January 12th, I treated myself to one of the January specials, namely white tuna in roast garlic comfit. Four breathtaking slabs of albacore rest against a bed of shredded carrot, sprouts and greens. The comfit adds a dimension of flavour that made each bite ravishing. White tuna's texture is so creamy that this could qualify as a dessert. Amazing. If I were rich, I'd eat five or six of these. A day. That was followed by avocado and unagi roll. Lee cuts the avocado in thin slices and terraces them atop the rice roll, creating a visually stimulating impression. The flavour is delicate, yet definite. Lee's food is so light it could be served on a cloud.

On a previous visit, I had a bowl of miso soup. Never one to keep it bland, Lee adds a ladle of cream at the last minute. The results were silky and gorgeous. He took a bowl of soup and with the flick of his wand turned it into strikingly original haute cuisine. This is why he's a genius.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Enriched Bread Collective at O'Connor Gallery

The Enriched Bread Collective from Ottawa came to town, presumably on one big bus like the Partridge Family, for a group show at the O'Connor Gallery. The opening took place on Friday, January 9th, and the theme was Verticality, so many of the pieces compelled the viewer to look up or down. Being short, I look up to everything anyway, so I loved it. There were more installations and sculptures than I've ever seen at the O'Connor. Highlights include:

- Cindy Stelmachovich's 6 Feet Under, consisting of two huge ranch house wooden pillars. At the base was a stone upon which lay one of those Visible Men toys from years ago, all hallowed out. Six feet above him, balanced on a one-inch thick slab of medical glass were all the parts needed to make him go - his rib cage, his teeth, his pelvic bone, his heart, etc., all contained within tiny glass specimen bottles. Awesome, and only $8,000.00;

- Kenneth Emig's simple yet elegant installation, consisting of two purple octagons, one on the floor and the other on the ceiling, with a black light and a mirror inside. When you look down or up, you see infinity. Very trippy, but I must apologize for thinking it was a fancy new table and almost putting my wine glass on it;

- and Gayle Kells' Pound for Pound, consisting of a little party dress made entirely of Lactancia unsalted butter wrappers, suspended from the ceiling. My boyfriend Steve loved this one the most, and if I had $2,000 to burn, I'd buy it for him. It reminded us of that Oscar dress made entirely of AMEX gold cards. Who knew those shiny gold and purple Lactancia butter wrappers could be so beautiful?

Steve and I also appreciated the table of artisan cheeses. In fact, now he wants to make cheese at home, and is busy researching how on the internet. We also appreciated the wine and charming barkeep Krista. As I've said before, the O'Connor is my favorite place to drink. Now under the management of Geoff Person, the gallery continues to amuse, though the past two shows have not been particularly gay. Not to worry. The next show will be Judy Chicago, a gay media event if there ever is one.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Casa de Sex

Jet Set Productions, as part of their popular Latin Heat line, has just released Casa de Sex, which is, like the previous titles, directed by Chad Donovan. Also like the previous titles, it features very little 'acting'. Indeed, there is very little context, beyond the fact that the boys appear to be in a big house somewhere (the 'casa' of the title) and are having lots of sex.

The first scene, a threeway, takes place (according to the press release) "in the alley outside the house" although it doesn't look like an exterior. Suffice to say the three Latin studs cavort next to a metal drum and some old tires. The second scene, a duo, takes place "in the hot pink entrance hall of the house". There are two other scenes following, also set in rooms with lurid colours.

The movie is good, but it's the press release that is most entertaining. I like the facts that Lucan Fabian is described as having "a unique look for 2008, that of a crew-cut blond muscular hunk with thick sensuous lips and pale smooth-skin - almost a throw back to the Armed Forces poster guys of the 1940s". He looks like just another fag with a fresh haircut to me, but he does have an adorable Superman logo tattooed on his left bicep. The scene is good, but those turquoise and banana yellow walls and the floral print on the couch compete with the cocks for attention.

No doubt the boys are hot. Latin Heat takes advantage of the myth of the Latin lover, and the whole movie is lit to enhance those swarthy skin tones. Everyone is nice and thin and hung and cute. If you like your Latin porn straight up, with no clumsy acting scenes to stop the fun, then Casa de Sex is for you.

Muscle Mountain

First time director John Tegan has created a lovely new gay porn movie from Jet Set Productions called Muscle Mountain. It's about rugged cowboy types working on a ranch, so brace yourself for a barrage of plaid shirts, ten-gallon hats and geetar'n'banjo strummin' on the soundtrack.

As the title suggests, the men are muscular. Not bodybuilder freakishly huge, but real pumped up at the gym types. Studly Derec Stone (what's with the spelling of his first name? I mean, really) starts things off by pretending to work, mostly splitting logs with an axe. Then the plot kicks in when a neighbour named Lucky Daniels comes by to "spy" on him. Lucky doesn't have the good sense to hide, so of course he gets caught, leading to the inevitable ridiculous confrontation. Lucky complains that Derec's dogs are shitting in his yard (they live on a fucking mountain but they're worried about their yards). Derec sees right through this baloney and accuses Lucky of coming by to drool at all the hunks he has working for him. Apparently, this is a bad thing. Derec chases Lucky away as though he was a nuisance. Later in the movie, they will have sex. It's at times like these that you wish pornos didn't even bother with the storyline, which is often faker than the sex. If Lucky is supposed to be such a nuisance, why cast such a stunning beauty in the role? Wouldn't it make more sense to just welcome him to the fold? I mean, these guys all do each other anyway. (I'm assuming the main product this ranch produces is sperm.)

Muscle Mountain has lots of horny moments and the guys are terrific. Not all of them are muscular, either. In the fourth scene, a little blond twink named Jason Pitt gets a weightlifting lesson from David Dakota that turns into a hot session. Pitt is so twinky he's practically a girl, like Zac Efron.

I really like porn that is shot outdoors. Nothing like sunlight to make fucking look healthy. The location is gorgeous. Throughout, there is lots of 'atmosphere' - hunky barechested dudes liftin' bales of hay, swingin' on tires, loungin' on hammocks, even sizzlin' bacon on a griddle. I have to say, the ranch looks like a fun place for a vacation. I wish it was real. I could use some muscle mountain myself.