Monday, December 31, 2012

Ask Gay Dr. Bill

Keeping up with two blogs when I've got books to complete, care-giving duties, and a load of other things to handle is too much, so I'm combining this blog with my brother blog: Ask Gay Dr. Bill. From time to time, in addition to answering questions, I will act like the same opinionated bastard that I have been here at J.A.T.G.A.B.. with reviews, opinion pieces, and the occasional, hopefully helpful, rant. Thanks for reading, following and subscribing to this blog, and I hope you'll do the same with Ask Gay Dr. Bill.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scotty Bowers is a Flaming Queen: A review of "Full Service"

SCOTTY BOWERS IS A FLAMING QUEEN: A REVIEW OF "FULL SERVICE: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars." Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg. Grove Press; 2012.

Oy vey! The lengths some people will go to to deny they're gay even while writing about all the guys they've been to bed with, and not always for money. Scotty Bowers, procurer for the stars and male prostitute in old Hollywood -- he is now 88 -- writes about many married men with wives and kids who were secretly homosexual, but seems to think because he keeps saying he really prefers women, adds one chapter about two women he was allegedly in love with, and has an [un-pictured] wife he married past the age of sixty, that this means he's not gay! One at least hopes he wouldn't resist the label "bisexual" although if memory serves me well he doesn't use it to describe himself in this pretty tedious book.

Look, we already know about Rock Hudson, Tyrone Power, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, the phony "romance" between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and so on. The only thing that may be new in here is that both the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were bisexual [well on one page they're bisexual; on the next page they're "essentially gay."] Bowers claims to have had sex with both of them. You'd think he'd be embarrassed to admit it, but then this guy thinks Walter Pidgeon is "handsome."

If Gore Vidal and William Mann, who has written books on Hepburn and Gay Old Hollywood [hopefully not with Bowers as a major source], want to praise this piece of shit, let them, although I wonder if they wrote their endorsements before actually reading the book! It's not that many of Bowers' assertions about the homosexuality of Hollywood's leading players and the many closeted gays among the "straight" married community are false, but that Bowers is absolutely the wrong person to be relaying the information. First, rightly or wrongly, who takes whores and procurers seriously? Second, even if some of his claims are true, it's hard to believe that Bowers personally witnessed or experienced everything he says -- much of it actually sounds like second or third-hand knowledge [if not gossip and rumors]. Third, Bowers, despite his strong connection to the gay community [or the closeted variation thereof back in the day], does his unconvincing best to set himself somehow above and apart the "queens" he mostly writes about. He gives lip service to Gay Rights, but this is a guy who has fond memories of being molested at nine and of the men who molested him as well, which is just pathetic. Do we really want his support?

I suppose one could argue that his being molested [assuming the story is even true] made him sexually confused and non-judgmental about sexuality [and more adventurous], but he really just comes off like a self-deluding "old queen." [And in his book jacket photo, in which he seems to have Shirley Temple curls on his head, certainly looks like one, which is ironic.] He writes that when he read a piece Tennessee Williams [for a whore he certainly had a whole shitload of important "friends," all of whom, of course, were close confidantes] wrote about him, he urged the famed playwright to destroy it because it made him seem like the "fairy godmother of the entire gay world in the City of Angels." And that certainly wouldn't do for such a straight stud as Scotty.

While it may be entirely admirable that Bowers has a healthy, realistic and non-judgmental attitude towards different kinds of sexuality [although his acceptance of pedophilia is rather problematic to say the least!] his sensibility is still stuck back in the pre-Stonewall period. He talks about all the married men who like cock, referring to some of them as bisexuals, but then writes about many of the hustlers who had sex with his clients as "straight" guys just because they may have had girlfriends or slept with women. Duh! It's that whole tiresome "rough trade," allegedly "gay for pay" crap that in these days of "Out and Proud" just seems terribly unrealistic and dated, "sexual fluidity" be damned. Besides if his clients can supposedly be bisexual, why couldn't the hustlers be as well?

The book is so indifferently written that it fails to make any of these people come alive with any depth, and it certainly has no compelling erotic descriptions like well-written porn.

Amazingly, Full Service is kind of boring. I imagine unsophisticated straight people from Iowa [no offense,Iowa] may find this "juicy" but for everyone else I would recommend saving your money.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Going Off Half-"Cocked": A Review of Mike Barlett's play "Cock"

COCK. [Or Bob and Rose Redux]. A play by Mike Bartlett.

[NOTE: This is a review of the published play, which originally appeared in London before being exported to New York, not of a particular production or performance.]

Well, after reading this play in its published form, I'm glad I didn't waste money going to see the new production. I just finished reading it and I'm jotting down my impressions quickly, because Cock is the kind of play you forget not long after seeing -- or in this case -- reading it.

The premise may seem new, but isn't. A man named John has been in a committed relationship with another man [simply called "M"] for several years but feels some dissatisfaction with his mate. During a brief "separation" John meets a woman [simply called "W"], has sex with her, and thinks he may have fallen in love, even though he's never had the slightest interest in women before. He goes back to M, however, but continues to see W. In a completely contrived situation [but then the whole play is contrived] John suggests that he, M, and W all have dinner together at M's home, where M's father [simply called "F"] also shows up to give his son moral support. Without giving anything away, John seems to make a choice but still seems conflicted at the end. For me a highly offensive note of the latest production is that the whole thing plays like some kind of boxing match, with Gay Man vs Straight Woman for the love of [unworthy] John. 40 years after Stonewall and we're still not past this shit?

Plays, stories and films about men being torn between women and other men are nothing new. [The movie A Different Story, the play Find Your Way Home, British TV's Bob and Rose are just a few.] The "new" wrinkle is the playwright's suggestion that John is bisexual, although it seems unlikely, even if he'd never had a heterosexual experience, that he wouldn't have realized long before that he was attracted to women. Surely in college he knew plenty of women, saw sexy ladies in advertisements, knew a few people who labeled themselves bisexual. His explanation is that everyone was congratulating him for coming out, he found a support network, etc., but this is all quite unconvincing. There was nothing to prevent him from dating/sleeping with women, as some gay men do on occasion, and he admits that he was always just interested in guys. Some may buy into the notion of "latent heterosexuality" but I think it's a crock.

John comes off less as a genuine bisexual than as a gay guy who's disillusioned with his lover [and therefore, ridiculously, with gay life], likes the way this rather desperate woman makes him feel like a man [whereas his lover makes him feel like a child], yet the play never examines the fact that there are plenty of men out there who don't feel as if they're "real" men unless they're fucking or involved with women. Playwright Bartlett simply dodges this aspect of internalized homophobia. Let's put it this way -- if John is bisexual, he definitely has a preference, and it isn't women. [It must be said that Bartlett does seem to capture the tiresome angst of some bi-identified individuals on the Internet, where he probably got most of his ideas and much of his dialogue.]

Late in the play John complains that it was his parents' generation who came up with "gay" and "straight" and who needs the labels now that "we have our rights," to which his lover wisely answers that we don't have all our rights and people are always trying to chip away at them anyway. John -- and perhaps playwright Bartlett -- may have a point that it shouldn't matter who or what you're sleeping with, but both miss the point that the disparity between acceptance of hetero and homo behavior is still wide, and Gay Pride has for years been one way of addressing and correcting that. Instead of Gay Pride, Cock gives us a gay man about to meet his boyfriend's female lover and saying it will be "THE ULTIMATE BITCHFIGHT!" Yuchh!

Just as big a problem is that Bartlett fails to create three-dimensional characters. I know we're long past the days of Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, but Bartlett can't even give his characters names let alone real substance. M comes dangerously close to being a gay stereotype. W never explains why she clings so desperately to a man who's essentially queer [be he gay or bi] -- why can't she just let the fellow be gay and find a perfectly nice straight fellow -- just because of one bad marriage? F for Father, a gay-friendly straight man who loves his son and cares for John, delivers more of the Gay Lib stuff than his son does, but that's probably not a bad decision on Bartlett's part, but he, too, seems to exist just to make a few good points. I suppose the point could be made that John is a conflicted bisexual stereotype as well, as if he needs both male and female lovers when Bi advocates always claim that is simply not true of bi people.

One could argue that at least some of Bartlett's dialogue is clever, but that likely means he'd be better off writing sitcoms than serious theater. In interviews the unprepossessing Bartlett refuses to reveal if he's gay, straight, bi, or even A for Asexual. Again we get the "I'm against labels" argument, but I've always suspected that those who are against labels are just queers who are in the closet out of shame and embarrassment. Reading Cock, I got the impression that Bartlett simply did a little research on the Internet, watched some old TV shows, and threw together something that he felt would be provocative, giving it an attention-getting title [Cock indeed!], and hoped for the best. The reviews have been surprisingly favorable, perhaps for the actors or perhaps because straight critics want to seem trendy and gay-friendly and gay critics are terrified of being seen as politically-incorrect [whereas I don't give a shit]. I find Cock to be so generally clueless and superficial that it could easily have been written by some straight married guy who doesn't have the vaguest understanding of what he's even writing about. I mean this is a play in which a gay man and straight woman are pitted against each other [whereas in real life many gay men and straight and gay women have wonderful non-sexual relationships] and both are more or less presented as "bitches!" How progressive is that!

Reading the play gives you time to explore and go-over the dialogue, which you can't do in the theater. I have to say that ultimately it doesn't matter whether you think John is gay or bisexual, should stay with M or go off with W. The fact remains that Cock just isn't a very good play any way you look at it. A writer of some depth, intelligence and real talent might have made something of the premise, but more likely a writer of that stripe wouldn't start with such a stupid , rather offensive, and even somewhat homophobic premise to begin with.    


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Tennesse Williams' In Masks Outrageous and Austere -- or Two Dead Gay Guys

REVIEW: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS' LAST PLAY "IN MASKS OUTRAGEOUS AND AUSTERE" OR TWO DEAD GAY GUYS

NOTE: This review contains some spoilers. 

"I'd rather be dead than be a born-again Christian." -- Babe in In Masks Outrageous and Austere

The great American playwright Tennessee Williams was working on his last play, In Masks Outrageous and Austere, when he died in 1983. It is a fair assumption to make that the play was completed by others, but the playbill for the first production at the Culture Project on Bleecker Street in the east village of Manhattan, doesn't say who -- maybe the director, David Schweizer? There are sections that are clearly the work of Williams [or a parody thereof] -- dithery women rushing on breathlessly -- but other sections could be the work of anyone.

The play officially opened on Monday, April 16th 2012. [NOTE: This review is based on a preview I saw the week before.] There is every attempt to give the play a handsome production, hopefully to distract from the fact that In Masks Outrageous and Austere isn't very good. Williams was still capable of writing great plays in his late period -- Vieux Carre is a masterpiece -- but Masks probably didn't need to be completed or disinterred.

The plot, such as it is, is as follows: Wealthy "Babe" (Shirley Knight), her gay husband Billy (Robert Beitzel), and his boyfriend Jerry (Sam Underwood), who is employed by Babe, are all apparently kidnapped to an unknown place by men known as the "Gideons." There is a weird, evangelist-type neighbor, Mrs. Gorse-Bracken (Alison Fraser) with a "retarded" son named Playboy (Connor Buckley), who never speaks. Babe has an assistant named Peg (Pamela Shaw) who is carrying on with a grease monkey named Joey (Christopher Halladay). Other minor characters show up who add nothing to the show.

It's interesting to remember that in the decade before Williams died, Shirley Knight's husband John Hopkins wrote the Broadway play Find Your Way Home, in which a married man with a wife falls in love with a younger gay hustler; in other words a triangle situation similar to the one in Masks. Find Your Way Home was deeply flawed. but it was a better play than Williams' absurdist comedy-drama.

Babe is cut from a long line of Williams faded heroines and seems to have an interesting bisexual back story. We really don't learn much about Billy and even less about his younger lover. Billy simply seems to be a rather pathetic gigolo. The play's best scenes remember that there is a "situation" here and has wife confronting lover and vice versa, while weak Billy never really deals with anything.

At the end of the play the "Gideons" -- representatives of the outraged Moral Majority; who knows? -- shoot and kill both Billy and Jerry [after Babe walks off to the beach], so what we're left with basically is two dead gay guys. Great!

Williams must be given credit for opening the doors to depictions of homosexuality in American theater. The trouble is as Williams got older he didn't really stay up to date with the new attitudes of Gay Liberation, so some of his plays seem rather dated and pre-Stonewall in their dealings with gay characters and situations. Maybe he felt Find Your Way Home already dealt with the husband-wife-boyfriend triangle and wanted to do something different. Maybe he just wrote himself out and had little else to say. He tried to experiment and be modern as the decades proceeded, but only when he literally went back to his roots with Vieux Carre -- the play deals with his early life in a New Orleans hotel with various eccentric boarders -- did he produce a work of lasting merit.

Still, even a mediocre or bad Williams play has interesting things in it, and Masks is no exception. There are some good scenes and amusing, trenchant dialogue. I believe that most of the audience members were applauding not for the play but for the actors. Shirley Knight, a very gifted lady [and she looks great at 76!], is wonderful as Babe. She's so good that you wish she'd been given a better vehicle to perform in. Alison Fraser is also quite good, and it's not her fault if her role is so irritating that in the second act you cringe each time she appears. Beitzel's [presumably] put-upon southern  accent occasionally swallows his dialogue, but he does his best with an under-written role. [It could be argued that Billy is another in a long line of Williams gigolos.] Sam Underwood is quite effective as Jerry, the only character you really feel any sympathy for, despite his motives never being completely delineated. The supporting cast is quite competent for the most part. One of the best performances isn't live, but on video when Babe makes a phone call to her doctor, whom I believe is played very well by an uncredited Austin Pendleton. [If I'm wrong my apologies to Pendleton and whomsoever played the part.]

One utterly tasteless aspect of the morally-ambiguous play is the treatment of the mentally disturbed "Playboy," who is apparently a minor and is molested both off-stage and on by more than one character. 

In conclusion, Masks might have been a much more successful play if Williams had more fully developed the characters and examined the triangle situation with more depth and veracity, instead of going off on surrealistic tangents. Still, the audience seemed to be having a good time, which is not true for every evening at the theater.

The Culture Project, which produced the play, is "dedicated to addressing critical human rights issues." It appears that Masks was a bit of a stretch.
 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Things Never Change ...

So I'm on the subway heading downtown when I see two straight couples standing nearby. Late thirties, early forties. The women are both white, the men are black and white. The guys are average-looking, as are the women, who are dressing perhaps a bit too loudly to accentuate their sexiness and minimize their age. There is something rather common about both of them. The white guy seems to be a bit of a lout, while the African-American guy at least appears to be the most intelligent and best educated of the bunch.

However, as the train pulls into a stop in Greenwich Village, it is the African-American guy who decides --since this is "gay" Greenwich Village -- that he has to tell the story of how -- gasp! -- a gay guy came on to him at a subway stop in the area. [This is another example of how dated these people were, as it is Chelsea that is now considered the big gay neighborhood in Manhattan, not Greenwich Village. Of course, they don't quite get that we are everywhere.] It is almost a dating ritual when straight couples go down to any area that has more than three gay people in it that the guy has to make clear what he thinks of gays, and that he is definitely, positively, thoroughly heterosexual.

Believe me, this particular gay guy wouldn't have cruised the fellow telling the story even under the influence. Guys like this feign disgust and disinterest at gay attentions when you sense deep down that they kind of like the fact that somebody thinks they're attractive. One of the women, while wearing a nauseated expression, said "Why didn't you tell him to get the fuck away!"

Good question. Maybe the guy telling the tale was on the down low. But he was establishing his heterosexuality for his date, hoping to bond with the Jersey gal in their mutual homophobia.No, I didn't hear "fag" or any obvious slurs, but the disapproval and negative attitude were definitely there.

Just a reminder that not everyone is cool with gay people, even in liberal New York City, and it's foolish to think that they are.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh Those Queens!

I was at my favorite gay bar the other day when this guy I barely know saunters over to me and a friend and says, "Hello ladies, how are you, girls" and some such shit.

I didn't even turn around. I just said "Jesus, how pre-Stonewall can you get."

I don't want to make too big a deal of this, but aren't we past this business of gay men referring to each other as women or giving themselves pet female names or calling each other "Mary." [It's not just older guys who do this. I'll never forget when a thirty-ish editor of a paper I wrote for emailed me about the Gay Pride March and wrote "we need all the Marys we can get." Marys? [I may not be super-butch but a "Mary" I ain't.] Who the hell says "Mary" anymore?

So today I get an email from New York's Gay -- pardon me, LGBT -- center with a list of upcoming attractions and I read this little blurb. Get this:

"Simon Doonan knows that when it comes to style, the gays are the chosen people. A second anthropological truth comes to him midway through a turkey burger with no bun, at an otherwise hetero barbecue: Do the straight people have any idea how many calories are in the guacamole? In this hilarious discourse on and guide to the well-lived life, Doonan goes far beyond the secrets to eating like the French -- he proves that gay men really are French women, from their delight in fashion, to their brilliant choices in accessories and d├ęcor, to their awe-inspiring ability to limit calorie intake. A Gucci-wearing Margaret Mead at heart, Doonan offers his own inimitable life experiences and uncanny insights into what makes gay people driven to live every day feeling their best, and proves that they have just as much --and possibly better-- wisdom, advice, and inspiration beyond the same old diet and exercise tips. So put down that bag of Pirate's Booty and pick up this fierce and fabulous book. From slimming jaunts through Capri in the evening to an intrepid "Bear" hunt, Gay Men Don't Get Fat is the ultimate approach to a glamorous lifestyle -- plus, you are guaranteed to laugh away the pounds!" 

Hasn' t this Simon guy ever been to a bear bar [I suppose that's what the "bear" hunt is about, but he couldn't have absorbed much from the hunt]? I know this is all supposed to be just good fun, and Doonan might be a completely funny and lovely fellow, but all of  this stuff -- gay men are really French women!! Yuck! -- is so completely dated, so 1950's, so stereotypical and just plain old hat. I'm sure I'm not the only gay man who couldn't care less about hair dressing or make up or fashion or who has little desire in being a limp-wristed, glamorous "ladies accessory" while dispensing fountains of dopey alleged "wisdom."

Yes, big queens exist, god love 'em, and can be a fun and colorful part of the gay community. But, sheesh, they are not the entire community or even a very large part of it if truth be told. They just stick out a lot more than the average gay guy.

As I've often said gay men have spent decades trying to be accepted as men and this kind of stuff certainly doesn't help. Sure, Doonan has a perfect right to express himself and to camp it up and be a big ol' fabulous "faggot" if he wants to.

But honestly, haven't we come a little further than that in all these years since Stonewall?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

BELATED HAPPY GAY YEAR!

J.A.T.G.A.B. will be back on track and published on a [hopefully] regular schedule very shortly.

2011 was quite a fuckin' year.

Looking forward to new challenges -- and new things to bitch about -- or celebrate! -- in 2012!

As for my other gay blog, Ask Gay Dr. Bill -- the doctor will be in and answering [a back load] of questions very shortly.

Have a Happy Gay Year!

Bill

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Enough to Make You Grab for a Martini

Get me a martini, quick!

As I've posted earlier, I was a co-producer for a gay show entitled "4 Martinis" by Carfer Lamor which premiered at the fresh fruit festival in July. As publicity director, I contacted virtually every person of interest in my address book, including a goodly number of fellow bloggers. The play was about gay members of the Latino community.

After the play wrapped up its run, I googled to see if there had been any mention of it. Sure there was -- on this blog! Anywhere else? Nope. Sheesh, even the gay Latino bloggers ignored it.

Now this is what you call support from the community, LOL.

Regarding "4 Martinis," there are other items of interest. One of the stars of the show, a Trans Woman, turned into a Diva Suprema and became completely uncooperative. She eventually ran off with all of the clothing bought for her to wear in the show, literally ran right out of the dressing room with the booty in her hands. [Do I smell a lawsuit on People's Court?]

Not all of the cast members were gay [including the Trans Woman]. But I was pretty certain that this one guy was not only gay, but very gay; even had a "gay" name if you can believe it. While one straight actor unfortunately felt it necessary to "act" gay, this guy didn't seem to be acting as far as that was concerned. [May I quickly add that all of the performances were nonetheless excellent, including that of these two fellows.] On his web site and face book page he referred to the play as concerning Latino characters but left out the word "gay." His facebook page also alleges that he has a wife, but when you click on her name you find there is no photo uploaded and very little information about her. Plus on his web site there is absolutely no mention of a wife. Now I realize that some actors can be pretty self-absorbed -- when Robert Vaughn wrote his memoirs he only mentioned his wife and children on the dedication page and never again thereafter -- but this seems a little strange. Is he "in-ing" himself because he thinks he won't get parts due to his sexual orientation? He certainly went out of his way to publicize himself on gay blogs when he was seeking work as a model.!

Anyway, the playwright had to step into the role vacated by the Trans Woman at almost literally the last moment. He did a superb job, probably better than she would have done [we'll never know, thanks to her diva behavior]. The play was very entertaining, and well-received by those who bothered to come to see it [not nearly as many as I would have preferred].

While this was all playing out I was dating -- at least I thought I was dating him but he might have felt differently --  a very attractive younger man who simply departed from my life without a backward glance or even a kind word. That sucks, but what can you do? 

Maybe there's a play in there! Or at least a blog post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4 MARTINIS


I am a co-producer and publicity director for a new play by Carfer Lamor entitled 4 Martinis. The play will premiere at the the LGBT "Fresh Fruit" Festival [yeah, I hate the festival name, too] later this month. What is the play about? Well here is a synopsis from the Facebook page:

4 Martinis is a controversial and provocative new play about six gay Latinos in the art world. Everything goes bare when an Argentinean gallery owner celebrates after a successful art show opening. Along with his ex, a transgender Puerto Rican, his houseboy and her boy-toy, they invite a nudist artist and his lover to stay for the night at the SoHo loft they share. Their art talk is quickly deconstructed after they inject it with comments about racism, ageism, alcoholism and simple discrimination. These outlandish characters bare their souls, and themselves, while discussing their sexual attitudes and the problems that surface when their relationships are saddled with the strain caused by cultural differences. (Nudity.)

I couldn't have put it better myself. [Although I am publicity director I didn't compose that blurb, although I wish I had as it perfectly describes the play and is very well written besides.]

If you live in New York or will be visiting, here are the play dates:

There are 4 performances of 4 Martinis as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival:
Monday, July 18th, 9:15 p.m.
Tuesday, July 19th, 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 21st, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 23rd, 1:30 p.m.
More performances to be announced.

Tickets are available now. They are a measly $18.00 Go to http://www.4martinis.com/trendy/ to order tickets.The show will be presented at the Barrow Group Theater at 312 W 36th Street, third floor.

The show has a wonderful cast, which is as follows:

Lee Bevins as Arturo
Cece-Suazo Augustus as Lupe
Bri Molloy as Gustavo
Craig Mark Wells as Frank
Kristoffer Infante as Eric
Jesuhan Malave as David

While 4 Martinis deals in part with LGBT groups that are not often covered by the media [including gay media] -- Latinos and seniors -- the cast and characters run the gamut from young to elderly, and the play deals with universal themes that can be enjoyed by all, regardless of age or ethnicity.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

PARTY!


This coming Saturday, June 11th, 2011, there will be a party at Boxer's Bar in Manhattan from 4 PM to 8 PM to benefit the play "Four Martinis" by Carfer Lamor. There will be drink specials, $5.00 absolutes, and $2.00 off a personal pizza. You can meet the cast of the play, as well as the playwright.

I am one of the co-producers of "Four Martinis" and the director of publicity. The play premieres this coming July and I'll be writing more about it in the near-future.

Boxer's is located at 37 West 20th street between 5th and 6th avenue.

Come and hoist a few and support gay theater! [And watch the Belmont races on the big screen as well!]

NOTE: There have been infrequent posts on JATGAB recently due to personal issues -- including my caregiving of an elderly friend -- but I am hoping to maintain a regular schedule very shortly. Thanks for your patience.