Monday, March 31, 2008

The new facebook

Little did I know as I was composing my post on Jay Leno the other day that others--fortunately, people with infintely more blogging clout--had the same idea. Behold: a panoply of gayest looks. I'm one of the many and least creative Mikes on there. Big kudos to Melissa McEwan, Dan Savage and, of course, Jeff Whitty for putting this together.

Oh, and a special note to Chad on there: You're cute. Call me!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spontaneity and Diligent Pre-Planning

Back when I lived in Atlantic City, I spent as few weekends actually in the area as possible, usually finding my way to New York or Philadelphia for better times. So imagine my surprise this weekend when, only a few hours after waking up and not really knowing what I was going to be doing for the day, I found myself in a car on the way to Atlantic City. Yes, thanks to the wonderful devil-on-the-shoulder whisperings of a great friend, I made my first trip back into South Jersey since I was a resident there.

I didn't win anything, of course, but it's nice to get away every once in a while and also nice to see some of the changes made to the area for the better. The Boardwalk, at least the key sections of it, looks much improved since I was last there about two years ago. And those tacky elephants in front of Trump Taj Mahal are mostly gone! Also, it was strangely cathartic to do the trip I'd done so many times in reverse, having the late-night drive home be toward, not away from, the city I love.

Also of note this weekend was a great blogger meetup in Midtown, smartly organized by Esther of Gratuitous Violins. It was great to meet Esther and Steve of Steve On Broadway, along with a huge number of theatre-focused bloggers with whom I was not familiar, and I look forward to exploring their sites. Lots of great theatre chat at the table, or rasping in my case, since I have virtually no voice left thanks to a persistent cold. Here's hoping it becomes a regular thing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Solidarity forever: MY gayest face

At the very moment last night when I was typing about some of the more egregious homophobes on our nation's public platform, Jay Leno apparently was giving them more ammo on "The Tonight Show."

I haven't made a habit of watching the obsequious Leno in years, so I'll let the brilliant Jeff Whitty recap the show (complete with clip). But basically, Leno used an appearance by Ryan Phillippe to spend several minutes teasing him about playing a gay character on a soap opera 12 years ago, at one point asking to turn to a camera and make "his gayest face." Whitty called out Leno a while back about his jaw-droppingly offensive, straight-from-the-70s "Brokeback Mountain" jokes, drawing from dated gay stereotypes.

See, I don't think Leno is homophobic in the least. From all accounts of comedians who know him, he is a genuinely nice guy to all. He does a lot for charity, and unlike a lot of his fellow late-night hosts, he still does comedy shows. It's just that Leno's comedy--as well as that of the tonight show writers--hasn't exactly evolved much in the past 20 years or so.

I saw Leno live in Atlantic City a few years ago. The material, for the most part, was pretty much like a "Tonight Show" monologue: a few chuckles here and there, but mostly easy jokes about easy targets, like Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, Bill Clinton and President Bush. He even had a long bit about the problems his parents have working a VCR. Yes, this was 2004, and he was making VCR jokes, and not even jokes about how hard it was to program a VCR. Just how difficult it was for his parents to use the fast-forward and rewind functions.

So, rewind back to when those sorts of jokes were relevant--this predates even Phillippe's soap appearance, by the way--and "having to play an icky gay guy" jokes are, well, no less offensive, but a little less anachronistic. Remember, that was a time when gay representation on television was mostly the old friend with AIDS who showed up to visit the Sugarbakers or that guy planning Dorothy Zbornak's wedding.

In other words, I don't think Leno was being purposefully hateful like those folks I linked to yesterday. Just lazy and predictable. Who knows? Perhaps he thought showing that old Phillippe jeans ad was his penance to the gays. I think I'll thank him just as Whitty did -- by showing MY gayest face.

Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March madness

Jeez, was Danny Noriega's American Idol appearance that offensive? WorldNetDaily columnists have been in a homo-hating frenzy lately. Yesterday, the increasingly self-parodying Chuck Norris pined for the good old days, when people could chop off the nuts of sodomites. Janet Folger whines that anyone had the nerve to say anything bad about disgusting Oklahoma representative Sally Kern--who thinks her apparently non-existant hairdresser is a bigger threat than Osama--and orgasms to the thought of fags dropping dead. Crusty dotard Les Kinsolving wrote something I'm not going to link to or even read about a bisexual bishop. This all on the heels of the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg's call to deport all gays and lesbians.

But no one beats the unhinged rantings of Olivia St. John. Yeah, I thought that was a General Hospital character who got killed off ages ago, too. No, but sadly, this Olivia St. John is a spiteful homeschool advocate who, in the course of one column, manages to turn back the clock 60 years to the belief that all homos are shady men in the bushes waiting to grab little Timmy on his way home from school.

When will these people ever have the nuts -- the ones not cut off by Chuck Norris, I guess -- to just come out and say what they believe? They want all gay people dead. Executed. The end. They cloak it in some nonsense about Christian compassion, but there is no compassion in their words. They never call for any sort of reasoned debate, just hysterics backed up by tainted research. When people are murdered--like the poor gay kid in California who was shot dead by a bully at school--they don't have a damn thing to say, probably because they're quietly rejoicing.

So go ahead, Olivia St. John. Pull your kids out of school. Keep them away from the homos and the darkies and whoever the hell else frightens your insular worldview. In a few decades, you'll be your own little isolated island of bile while the rest of the world moves on, the Ruby Ridge of the future. We'll still send the garbage trucks and water lines your way. But none of us will talk to you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend review roundup

The 39 Steps
Gus Van Sant, Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche, take note. It is possible to recreate Hitchcock without it being an utter travesty. This farcical production, a London transfer presented by Roundabout now playing at the American Airlines Theatre--soon moving to the Cort--reduces the old Hitchcock spy thriller into the hands of a cast of four with tongue-in-cheek reverence that only occasionally seems to overstay its welcome. Charles Edwards is the dashingly handsome hero Richard Hannay, Jennifer Ferrin is the trio of women he charms and Cliff Saunders and Arnie Burton are, well, everyone else. Often four or five people in the same scene, in fact. Watching the actors flawlessly walk the tightrope of bouncing between different hats, purposefully bad accents and minimal props gives the show a kind of magic-show thrill that propels it past what could have, in the wrong hands, seemed like a too-long high school group improv.

Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, take note. It is possible to recreate John Waters without it being, well, "Hairspray." Considering this show is still early in previews, I'll be perhaps overly kind, not speaking so much to specific performances, but I smell trouble. In fact, I'll just point out what is likely to be the fatal problem to this show. "Hairspray," for all its faults, was buoyed around two interesting characters. In "Cry-Baby," however, the most fun characters are peripheral, buoyed around two characters who are bland, bland, bland to the point that they completely fade away during the ensemble numbers (not really the fault of the actors, either). Good-girl Allison and bad-boy Cry-Baby -- he's bad, I guess, because he wears a leather jacket and doesn't sing in barbershop quartet format -- are little-developed beyond expository back-story and as a result are overshadowed by secondary and tertiary characters. It's telling that the highlights of the score, most of which sounds like something thrown together from Jim Jacobs' cut songs, are largely in the hands of cast standout Alli Mauzey, who plays Lenora, a psychotic stalker obsessed with Cry Baby. There are some good points. Harriet Harris is, as usual, a highlight, Rob Ashford's choreography is mostly on-target -- although I'd say lose or cut down the tap-dancing-on-license-plates bit--and there are a few witty moments in the lyrics. Ultimately, though, I see this going more the way of "The Wedding Singer" than the obvious comparison. Considering the reviews "Young Frankenstein" received, it looks like the 2007-2008 season is shaping up to be the year of the sophomore slump.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Artist's remorse

As a kid, I used to subscribe to one of those silly for-children magazine. Not Highlights. I can't even remember the name. Playmates or Playtime or something like that. The slightly older-skewed version of Jack & Jill, whatever that was called.

At any rate, one of my goals during that time was to get one of my drawings published on the page where they featured small black-and-white versions of the artwork that readers sent in. Now, I've never been great at drawing. True, I did win a best-in-show ribbon for a painting of flowers at the Brazoria County Fair, but that's when I was five, and my skills kind of never got past that level. But oh, I tried and tried.

Then one day, when I was 8, I got a letter notifying me that they would be publishing one of my drawings. Validation! And just in time, especially because the older you got, the better your drawings had to be to get in. I eagerly waited for the magazine to see which one they choose, and when it arrived, I realized it was the crappiest one I had ever sent in: a scribbled out, asymmetrical Christmas tree that looked even more pathetic with the green and all the decorations sucked out of it by the loss of color. Yet there it was. My name attached to it.

I bring this up because, many, many months ago, probably after drinking, I sent in something to Overheard in New York. And suddenly, they've decided to publish it. And looking at it, I'm realizing that it's not that funny. And I also apparently signaled to them that I wanted my full name posted by the quote.

The quote itself is pretty old, as indicated by the location of where it was overheard: a show I reviewed more than six months ago. It made a bit more sense then, when the U.S. dollar wasn't quite as pathetic as it is now, albeit still stronger to the Chilean peso. Considering that the top quote on the Overheard in New York site is from a Yankee's game, I'm guessing that it was just a matter of catching up.

Which reminds me that I sent in something else shortly after that one. If it ever appears, I hope this one, something I overheard in the audience while attending The Tyra Banks Show (yes, I went to that -- shut up). I think it went something like this:

Female intern: Wow, those makeovers Tyra did were really amazing, weren't they?
Guy in audience: Yeah. When are they going to give you one?

Validate me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This is shameful

It seems like all I write lately are excuses on why I haven't been blogging! Once again, I've been out of town, catching up with my father (who's doing much better, by the way). In addition, I've been working on one of my major projects of the year at work, which thankfully is over now. But no more travel for a few weeks now, at least, even though I very regretfully had to turn down a trip to Argentina next weeks.

But all excuses. As penance, here are one-sentence reviews of every show I've seen since I last wrote a show review:

Crimes of the Heart: Kathleen Turner makes a respectable directorial debut, the kind that an American Idol judge would call safe but just a'ight for me, dog.

Oroonoko: The show's already opened and closed with little fanfare, so all that really needs to be said is that there is a delightful riff by one of the female character on the uselessness of the king's penis.

Applause at City Center: I will never penny-pinch and buy the $20 nosebleed seats at this venue again, as the pole at the front of the balcony was the star of the show for me, although the dot that kind of looked liked Christine Ebersole sure sang pretty.

In the Heights: Even as a mere two-year resident of Washington Heights, I feel comfortable in saying this show is about as representative of the neighborhood as "Brigadoon" is of Scotland, but it still is a darn entertaining night at the theatre.

Dina Martina: Off the Charts!: After hearing my sister play it on the piano for years in the 1980s, finally someone made the theme from "Ice Castles" listenable again!

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Anika Noni Rose, as Maggie the cat, more than makes up for a mostly miscast everyone else, and hearing James Earl Jones boom out the word "poontang" more than makes up for the disappointment in director Debbie Allen's failure to include an interpretive dance number.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bellagio fountain

Why do people shoot video of things that everybody and their brother have already filmed, usually at a much higher level a quality than the average tourist can do? Why do we take grainy photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge, all landmarks that already have been shot from every concievable angle known to man? And these are photos and videos that no one really wants to see, by the way. Is it just some crude way of marking our territory?

Yeah, I do it too. Here's the video I shot of the famous Bellagio fountain, spurting to Rachmaninoff.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Paparazzo extraordinaire

Yikes! I've been silent for more than a week, largely because I was in Las Vegas on business and came back with a nasty, nasty cold. As penance, here are some exclusive celebrity photos shot by moi:




OK, I'm officialy 80.