Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Joyful New Year To You All.


Beginning tomorrow, Jim and I will be taking a two week break for the holiday season.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Joyful, Prosperous New Year.

The Deceptive Danger of Ex-Gay Groups.

I wasn't going to write this entry today, but I feel like I must. I received an email from a guy who is active in his gay Christian church, but who went through all the exgay programs. His story was very typical. First, an exorcism to release the "gay demon," followed by exgay therapy programs, followed by encouraging him to "reject" the "gay identity."

Following in faith, he became a leader of exgay programs, got married, endured this marriage even though he never became opposite sex attracted (but was encouraged to marry by those who said that "God would provide") until he finally lost it completely and ended up doing hard drugs and wasting his life in sex clubs until he contracted HIV and almost died. In fact, they had pulled the plug on him. But, miraculously, his lungs healed and he came back to life.

Now, he's happy as a clam, singing at a Metropolitan Community Church and is partnered with a great guy, and they are deliriously overjoyed at having found each other, and true love.

Now, imagine if he had known from the beginning that he could have by-passed all the snake oil phony exgay theology and the suicidal activity and gone right into a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, the exgay groups don't tell this part of the story. They're too busy pushing their expensive programs and their phony therapies that don't work for anyone.

I stumbled upon an article by Exodus International Vice President, Randy Thomas, where he talks about how a mother sent her 19 year old Christian-raised son into his office to get "fixed."

The boy brought his boyfriend with him and Randy basically told them that they could either be gay or they could be Christian. But that was their only choice. End of story.

In other words, they could choose each other and the love they feel for each other, or they could choose to burn in hell. Naturally, Randy didn't put it to them in just those words. The leaders of Exodus have learned to use more slippery language than that.

But how does a 19 year old tell the difference? Here's what the 19 year old hears in his head: IF YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THAT BOY SITTING NEXT TO YOU, YOU WILL BURN IN HELL. Randy, of course, doesn't make a distinction to him about the difference, in Baptist theology, of being "saved" and being a "Christian."

In fact, what Randy did tell them was that what they felt for each other wasn't "true" love like perpetual celibate Randy has with his fetishized Jesus figure. (Seriously. You should hear him describe his Penthouse Story version of him and Jesus together in his fantasies). He tells them that what they feel is merely a substitute for the real thing.

This is why so many gay Christian teenagers either try to kill themselves (through drugs and sex or gunshots to the head) or end up depressed. They believe this crap being foisted upon them.

I questioned Randy about whether he meant to imply this in his article but he was uninterested in clarifying. His agenda is solely to sign up recruits, lobby Congress against gay marriage and continue the cult-like teachings of this discredited theology and therapy.

This past summer, Exodus held a national conference and the group Beyond Ex-Gay, which uses language far more kind than I do, held a parallel conference near there where they invited the leaders of Exodus to listen to the stories of the ex-ex-gays, and the damage done to them by the myriad of scattershot "ministries" that fall under their umbrella.

Exodus refused to join in. As I said before, they turn a blind eye to the people they've damaged.

They are afraid to face the truth of the spiritual violence inflicted by their misbegotten programs. They live in this little fantasy world where a Magic Jesus that they conjured up in their mind is going to magically transform them into heteros.

In a way, it's like the lottery. Gay people join these groups with the promise of "change" -- millions of dollars are spent on their advertising campaigns by groups like James Dobsons' -- and the promise of heterosexuality is held out there for them. But it never quite gets achieved. Oh, they hear stories of people who've "changed." Just like we see stories on the news of people who won a billion bucks in the lottery.

But, just as the man who wrote the letter to me testified, no one actually changes into heterosexuals. Randy Thomas is not a heterosexual. Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, though married, is not even a heterosexual. He admitted as much in a recent video that he "lives in denial" every single morning. He denies his same sex attraction and goes on in his marriage pretending to be straight, thinking that if he pretends long enough, it will come true.

So, these closet gays in admitted denial are leading others in a classic case of serial denial.

And why do they do this?

Because someone convinced them that if they don't turn straight, they won't get to heaven.

So, they practice their deceit. They wage their war against us. And they get to stand in a room full of everstraights, getting pats on the backs. Uncle Toms who've betrayed their own people in order to score a few good points with a group of folks who, otherwise, wouldn't give them the time of day -- the same way they won't give the time of day to the people they've injured.

Meanwhile, I can only hope that those two 19 year old kids who experienced the emotional and spiritual abuse from Randy Thomas cling as closely to each other as they can. The phony gay-hating Jesus created by Exodus International exists only in the minds of those whose paychecks depend on this fake monstrous creation.

UPDATE: If you think this hate-filled Jesus is not a huge part of the world of Exodus and its supporters, read this account of a man going back to his childhood Baptist church.

Some Cold Relief.

I've been suffering with this cold/throat infection for a number of days now. My head has felt like it would explode, it was so stuffed up. I've really been feeling miserable. Can't think. Can't work. Can't do anything.

But yesterday, I finally got to the turning point. I literally slept the entire day and about midnight, when I woke up, my t-shirt was drenched in sweat and the pressure in my head had finally let up.

The worst was finally over. Yay team!

So, today I'm going to keep on drinking hot liquids, keeping still, and enjoying this relief. It's not over, but it feels so good to reach the peak and hit the other side.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Happened To Class.

A little social commentary. First, read Arianna Huffington's brilliant observation:

With Mike Huckabee's continuing surge, the Republican Party now has an Iowa front-runner whose religious beliefs are virtually identical to those of George Bush. He's anti-choice, born-again, against gay-marriage, and gets political advice directly from God.

So why is the Republican establishment suddenly in a state of near-apoplexy about Mike Huckabee? Shouldn't they be happy? They've been cultivating evangelicals and fundamentalists for 30 years. Now they finally have a candidate who's truly part of the movement. So what's the problem?

Actually, that is the problem. The evangelical crowd was fine when it was just a resource to be cynically exploited every few years in demagogic anti-gay get-out-the-vote campaigns. But now the holy-rolling monster the GOP's Dr. Frankensteins have created has thrown off the shackles, fled the lab, and is currently leading in Iowa. And the party doesn't know what to do.

It's actually fun to watch the consternation.
My daddy's family is pure hillbilly -- and I mean that in both the best possible way, and the most literal. They were very proud to be hillbillies. My dad was raised in a cabin in the Ozarks. I've been there once.

I love my Arkansas family. They are warm and beautiful, will give you the shirt off their backs kind of people. Seriously. It's a code of life there.

We never knew I was part of a lower class. And since nobody told me this, I have never felt like a lower class person who needs to remain there. Everyone is equal in my eyes.

If the Queen of England walked into the room, as Dolly Parton put it to Quentin Crisp's great gasp, I'd say howdy and shake her hand.

People raised with the class system ingrained in their heads don't always appreciate, I think, the power that comes with this kind of naivete. I agree with Arianna. This is going to be a fun one to watch. Because I can tell you now, if they really start beating up on him, he will win the nomination. Martyrdom is part of the myth.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Little Health Update.

Someone asked me about my health. So, here's a little update. First of all, today I'm down with a throat infection. I get these every year about this time. So, I have my antibiotics and Jim just made me some delicious chili, which radiates heat in my upper chest area.

I still have a zero viral load, so the HIV is under control thanks to the (occasionally mind-bending) drug Atripla, which is a combination of three anti-virals combined into one tablet. A lot of people can't tolerate the Sustiva, which is one of those anti-virals. It can cause a lot of sleeplessness along with nightmares.

My foot has been okay lately, but I can feel that nerve just waiting for me to step wrong. It's amazing how instantaneous the searing pain can hit. So, I kind of feel like an old man when I walk since I favor that foot. This has also made it difficult for me to exercise. However, I've gotten a few good long walks in.

The test we were going to do on my kidneys didn't happen. I gave them a full day's worth of urine, but the person at the doctor's office who received the jug didn't know they were supposed to do a blood draw -- and I didn't know it, either. So, it was a waste of energy. I'm going to do it again after I get back from our Christmas break (which starts on Friday).

Still, overall, I feel I'm doing very well. I'm strong and relatively healthy (compared to "normals") but I have a few tests coming up to see what's up with my kidneys (or if it's about my kidneys at all -- I have too much protein in my urine).

Anyway, today I'm down and staying still. The cats are lying on me. Jim is feeding me hot soups, chilis and tea. And I love Christmas time.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Night with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks & Charlotte Rae.

Charlotte Rae called us and said she wanted to take us out last night because Estelle Reiner, Carl Reiner's wife, was scheduled to sing a private cabaret at the Gardenia down on Santa Monica Blvd. But, she said, Estelle wasn't really feeling very well, so it was possible that some of the family members -- and extended family members would, instead, fill in and make it a nice evening. Sure enough, Carl got up and emcee'd the night.

First, their daughter, Anne, sang. My favorite songs were written by Leonard Cohen. I hadn't heard much of Leonard Cohen before and it's always great to be introduced to amazing songs by a writer I've always read about but hadn't explored much. He has a terrific way with words. And Anne did a wonderful job on them.

We sat close to Mel Brooks, who we'd met very briefly one time before at the late Stan Freeman's one man show about Oscar Levant.

Brief story: That night, our "dates" were (Dear) Abby Van Buren and Lucille Ball. Lucy kept asking us, in her husky voice, "Which one IS she??" Afterwards, we went out to dinner and Jim totally set Abby up. He told her that Stan loves to get comments about his performance. So, she said to him, "You know, Shtan," (she had this lateral lisp, so all her "s"'s were like "sh"), "I have an idea for your show."

Immediately, Jim jumped in and said, "Well, who are YOU to give advice?"
So, Anne sang. Then Carl sang a couple of songs, jokingly. And then Mel got up and did a few numbers. It was really cool. Very warm and sweet. They even took video of the crowd saying hello to Estelle, so she could "join" us.

Steve Schalchlin, Mel BrooksMel and Steve.

Jim told Mel about "Zero Hour" and the story about how he had auditioned for the musical of "The Producers" and before he even got in to see the main casting director, he was told that he "wasn't right for the part."

Carl Reiner, Charlotte Rae, Jim Brochu, Mel BrooksCarl Reiner, Jim Brochu, Mel Brooks & Charlotte Rae.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Ex-Gay Failure Ends in Tragedy.

Many of the gay blogs this morning have picked up on the fact that the Colorado shooter, Matthew Murray, was another failure of the ex-gay movement. He was already mentally unbalanced, no doubt. (After all, if everyone who failed in their dismally ineffective programs went out and shot someone, we'd have a killing spree like this country has never seen.)
In fact, he may be a victim of the church's ex-gay reparative therapy program. Having failed to find heterosexuality through Jesus it appears that Murray was booted out of the youth program and out of the church. Crushed by this rejection and overwhelmed by rage and despair thanks to the curse of homosexuality, Murray went on a killing spree that ended with himself.
People were wondering why he chose THIS particular church, the one recently pastored by Rev. Ted Haggard, who loved doing crystal meth -- and who claimed to be cured of his homosexuality after a month of "treatment." And, as Matthew says, "...was forgiven."

Matthew, unable to change into a hetero, was kicked out of the program and ostracized by the church community (because some conservative Christian groups cannot bear to be in the same room with people who they think might be gay, even if that person is trying not to be.)

In the larger world of Exodus International, I've met more than a few of these "leaders" who have flat out told me that if someone won't stick with the program, they will literally turn their back on them and have nothing to do with them. And they call this "love." As one put it to me, "Hey, if they choose not to go through the program all the way, why should I waste my time on them?"

(Exodus doesn't keep records of how many fail. They can't. If they did, they'd be even more of a laughing stock than they are. As it is, they're content to simply be a political tool of James Dobson).

So, rejected by family. Rejected by friends. Rejected by the group that claims to "love" them, they end up broken and fallen, and usually on the streets of LA, NY or San Francisco, doing drugs, turning tricks and trying to die -- or they take a gun and end it all. The streets of LA are not filled with out, proud gay men. They are filled with the failures of the exgay movement (whose clients are mostly closet cases). First these "Christian counselors" trash the ones they are supposed to love, and then accuse the gay community of being drugged out and promiscuous.

I want to say to them, "Hey! These are YOUR kids out there. YOU were the ones who created this situation and then you throw them out of your little prayer groups and 'Christian homes' and leave us to pick up the pieces of your spiritual violence. So, first you create the problem and then you blame us for the result."

Clearly, this young man had a lot more trouble than merely believing that he's going to burn in hell for merely being gay or bisexual. But if you think and truly believe that you're only going to end up in hell anyway, why not turn that wrath on the pious, self-righteous people who will forgive a meth-snorting hypocrital liar (who's still lying) like Ted Haggard, but have no love for a lost kid who feels he has nothing left to lose?

Merry Christmas.

Addendum: The Southern Poverty Law Center just issued this brilliant overview of the spiritual violence inflicted by exgay programs.

EDIT: And this is a perfect example of their abuse:


Monday, December 10, 2007

Julie Reyburn sings "Going It Alone"

As part of the Spirit of Broadway Awards this past weekend, Julie Reyburn was asked to sing "Going It Alone" so the audience could get a sample number from THE LAST SESSION, which is going to be produced there in Norwich this coming season. Julie wrote me rather in a panic because she's been on "baby leave" from performing for awhile and she would probably need to use the lyrics. I told her I had absolutely no problem with that and as far as I was concerned she could sing the song and burp the baby at the same time.

Side note: I did not shoot much or any video this weekend. It wasn't that I didn't want to include all of you, but I was dreading the thought of having hours and hours of footage to edit, knowing I would have to put it off given the fact that I'm focused on this big project which is using up all my waking hours.

However, I did manage to put my weary fingers around the camera when Julie got up to sing "Going It Alone" and I will give you fair warning. Do not watch this if you are prone to weeping loudly at incredibly emotional renderings of heart breaking songs -- and you are in an office or some place where you will be embarrassed if someone sees you melting into a river of tears.

I was almost unable to hold the camera. In fact, just after the song, still in a trance, I snapped the camera off, only to look around and find the entire room on its feet, stomping and whistling and applauding. I told Julie the next day that I was going to youtube this and that she should be prepared to insert this number into every single show. Because anyone who sees it is going to want to hear her sing it again. If this is how she does it "off the cuff" while reading the lyrics, just imagine what she will do with this when it's memorized.

Friday, December 07, 2007

This Weekend in Norwich


This weekend, Jim and I will be the emcees at the Spirit of Broadway Awards in Norwich Connecticut. I'll post lots of pictures and video! Mark Janas and popular NY cabaret singer Julie Reyburn are going to be performing. And, if I'm not mistaken, Julie will be singing "Going It Alone" from The Last Session. The last time she sang this... well, here is the description from my diary:

Then it was time for "Going It Alone." After a brief introduction, Mark began the chords TLS fans know so well. But he was pacing it, carefully breaking the beat and just laying down a sound pallet.

Julie entered the song with great care. You could tell her entire heart was wrapped up in it from the first note. The audience went dead silent and we were literally bathed in beauty. Mark stayed with the basic chord structure, but every once in awhile he would find something that gave it a little emotional hit. Julie, meanwhile, was starting to soar. I could feel my throat tighten and, as they got to "What about what you've been through as well," my eyes started to burn and I was absolutely held rock solid frozen for the entirety of the song.

Anyone watching me would have seen the equivalent of a marble statue, transfixed and so happy. Not just happy that Julie was knocking the song out of the ballpark but so happy that she was doing it with my song. There is no higher moment of elation for songwriter than to hear your own song being sung by someone with a beautiful voice who is fully and completely connected emotionally.

It ended in a moment of intense stillness. The audience held its breath and allowed the moment to linger. Then, suddenly, they exploded into an ovation that went on for a minute or longer. It just kept going on and on. I thought the people would never stop applauding. I was in tears, absolutely stunned at her rendition.

Jim and I will sing. And I'll also sing something The Last Session since THEY ARE GOING TO PRODUCE IT THIS YEAR as part of their season. (I'm so excited about the prospect of a first class production of TLS. At last! It's been way too long. I'll always believe that it was a show ahead of its time in the way it deals with today's religious conflicts).

We have lots of wonderful friends at the Spirit of Broadway Theater, so this is going to be fun.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Imagine.

You're sitting in a huge historic concert hall in the most beautiful city in North America.

The lights go down.

What's the first thing you'd want to see and hear?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Old Frontier.


(Click on pic to see it full sized).

I found myself in an excerpt from a book published in 1999 telling people how to "make your own Geocities website!" God, that seems like centuries ago.

(This was in the days, pre-blog, back when we early public adopters of the Web were kind of out there on our own. Geocities was one of a handful of experimental sites. At the time, it had an entry level rudimentary website building feature but I taught myself HTML code -- or, rather, how to copy underlying code from a page you like as a template -- and made my own design.)

Since the idea of personal websites were completely new to the non-geek community, people had no idea what to do once they set a website up. The Web was a frontier settlement. It wasn't books, it wasn't TV and it wasn't movies. It was a new artform completely. The early adopters had to make it up as they went along.

In my case, because I was so ill, I found myself inadvertently creating a little virtual community around the diary. People of all ages and sexes hung out with me, read the diary, used the discussion board, got advice, found mates, created friendships, fought, loved, stormed off, fell in love, lost relatives, lost kids and more than a few died -- some of AIDS, some of cancer. We needed each other and it worked.

People now do this in a more sophisticated and connected way at Facebook or MySpace, or at other places. Corporate America has suddenly discovered that creating these networks can be monetarily advantageous. And I suppose that's true. But there was something romantic about our little groups cozying together in little places, seeking shelter from the storm. It was safe. But times have changed. Kids grew up and graduated. Others began focusing on their work or their lives. Got married. And I think that's a good thing. It was a healthy place we created.

And the great thing about having created the Bonus Round space -- which is still centered around the diary, the blog -- is that people can and do drift back into my life all the time, reminding me of those warm nights around the virtual fire.

Back in 1999, as this book was being written, my diary/community was on the cutting edge of a social experiment and we didn't even know it. We just liked each other.

After all, according to the authors of that book, my diary was "enthralling without being visually stunning."

I think that describes me to a T.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day

And World AIDS Day comes around again.

We are well into the third decade of a scourge that has expanded exponentially beyond a small specific group to almost every corner of the globe. Whilst in some areas, incidence may have turned, prevalence continues to rise and will do so for a long time- more young people will be infected, more orphans will occur.

Yet, today still 70% of infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies. Many still face stigma, economic deprivation and rejection because of their infection. Many still don’t have access to basic information or simple interventions that will reduce risk. This is not the time for complacency nor apathy. It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognises that the voiceless are often those who suffer most- who can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries.

--Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M Tutu


NY Times blog:

On this World AIDS Day, it may be time to finally recognize AIDS for what it is: another symptom of poverty. The startling statistic that 5 percent of adults in our nation’s capital (roughly the same prevalence rate as in Rwanda, where I live) are HIV positive drives the point home.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Important Meeting

I had my meeting today. The important one. It involves a very big project I have been focusing on for more than a few years. It's a dream I have been carrying for a very long time. And, unless I'm a completely deluded person, it went very, very well.

I want to divulge the full details of the meeting, but at this moment, because it involves more people than just me, I'm going to hold off making any formal announcement. Also, I'm superstitious about discussing stuff too soon.

But the reason I'm saying something here and now is not to tease you, but to mark the date.

What I can say is that if it works out, it will involve hundreds of voices, an orchestra and a very large concert hall. But even more than that, it will be a part of an anniversary celebration a historically and artistically significant musical institutions -- and the anniversary of one of the most important political figures of my world.

See? No big deal. :)

Little update

We are still in San Francisco. Going to see Charlotte Rae's show tonight. I have a meeting today, also. Not much news. Just letting you know I'm still here. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Interview With Scott Griessel

When we were in Tucson, we met a filmmaker named Scott Griessel who gave me an advance copy of the film he had just finished, a documentary called "The Asphalt Gospel" about a group of self-described Christians who walked from Phoenix to Washington, DC.

I loved it so much, I did something I don't remember ever having done before. I formally interviewed him. Now, frankly, I don't think anyone is ever going to mistake me for Regis Philbin, but I did enjoy the challenge of turning a half hour of conversation into a five minute interview. What do you think? Do I have a new career?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

9th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.


The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgendered — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgendered people.

[Photo from San Francisco DOR 2001]We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

"Whatcha Been Doin' In SF?"

I haven't posted a lot of personal blogs from here because I keep thinking I'll make videos. But then I've gotten so much footage and have gotten so backed up on putting them together, it all starts to get too overwhelming. And then days go by. And it's just too much to remember.

So, first of all, Zero Hour is doing really well. In the first week, before anyone knew it was here, there was little or no pre-sale on the box office. So, this run -- which was scheduled at the last minute as a fill-in show because Ed Decker loved it so much -- is starting to take off. The reviews, as you have seen, have been extraordinary. And it's so nice when the audience begins to show up and really enjoy the show.

One of the nicer visitors we had was a young 15 year old named Anthony, who is undergoing a great deal of health issues. His father wrote and said that Anthony was a true Zero Mostel fan and could we meet afterwards. The answer, of course, was yes yes yes. Such a smart, articulate young man. It was sad to know he was having to deal with life-threatening problems so young.

Jim met him afterwards and gave him the painting he painted during the show:


Meanwhile, I've been in a little rehearsal room working on music while Jimmy is on stage. Ed came in the other night and I was passed clean out in the chair in there. So, I guess I haven't been QUITE as productive as I'd have liked. But still, we were invited to a dinner party Sunday night and I sang some songs from our New York revue and got great kudos all around. So, I'm very excited about finishing the project so we can move on to the next one.

Last night, Monday, I went to a rehearsal of the SF Gay Men's Chorus under Dr. Kathleen McGuire. They sounded fantastic, of course, rehearsing for their Christmas concert. It was fun to see Kathleen in action. She's so good. She announced to the group that I was writing a piece for them. (That was the big news I hinted about last week). She's very receptive to the Peace Cantata I've been writing, but the two of us have yet to just sit down and go through it.

So, who knows? She may hate the whole thing. But I love these songs which I've been working on for several years and I would just DIE if the chorus sang even ONE of them. Point being, we're looking at it and if she thinks it fits in with their message, then maybe we'll pull it off together. I do hope so.

I also have had a few evening "song-trading" nights with Daniel. I'd sing a song of mine. And he'd sing a song of his. He really is special, this boy. So cute and so talented. I'm grateful to Ed for making it possible for us to get back together.

Jim has kind of been shaking a cold since we got here. So, really, we haven't been touring around the city or anything. Mostly, I've been trying to keep him warm and quiet. This show is two hours of high energy octane and he doesn't stop for a moment. The great thing, though, is seeing his performance grow and grow and grow. Once he was able to stop thinking about the changes in the book, he began focusing entirely on his characterization -- and it's light years farther along now than when he opened. Which was light years beyond what he did in Los Angeles.

This past week, we also made friends with the director of the Ira & Lenore Gershwin Trust. Mike is a very down to earth guy. He and his wife came to see Zero and were totally blown away. So, they invited down there. And, once again, VIDEO. But how do you choose shots when everything is so amazing? All these paintings and drawing by George and Ira. Incredible.

Meanwhile, across the Big Pond, my friend Ramin Karimloo who's playing the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera has just released a solo CD featuring, among other songs, "At Least I Know What's Killing Me" from The Last Session. You can get it at Dress Circle.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

WCITIES reviews Zero Hour

WCities, an online publication which is a guide to San Francisco reviews Zero Hour.

Zero Hour, a one-man act being shown at The New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) recounting the life of actor Zero Mostel, is a mesmerizing and refreshingly witty show from beginning to end. Under the direction of Brendan James, the stage is dominated with boundless confidence by Jim Brochu, recipient of three L.A. Drama Circle Awards and personal friend of the late Mostel. The scene is set in Mostel's cozy art studio shortly after the successful release of The Producers. Brochu plays the larger-than-life actor and creates a tone of immediacy by addressing the audience directly in an explosive voice. The questions of a beginning reporter from the New York Times who is assigned to interview Mostel are answered with brutal sarcasm, perfectly timed comedic wit and, most powerfully, genuine honesty. From the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Mostel spent his early youth painting, reading literature and making people laugh, to the devastating accident that crushed his leg in 1960 following Mostel's rise to fame, the play covers many significant moments in the infamous actor's life. Brochu rounds out the character of Mostel through a mastery of facial expressions and timing, manipulating the mood of the audience with absurd impressions (a butterfly at rest) and painfully earnest recollections of loved ones. One moment the room is quaking with laughter from a story about performing in comedy clubs in the 1940s, the next: dead silence while Brochu describes the horrors of McCarthy's Blacklist America. For a one-man show, Brochu creates the feeling of a full cast play, painting unforgettable pictures of friends, actors, family and most memorably, Mostel himself.-Travis Schirmer

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jim Gets An Award.

Just before "Zero Hour" tonight, Jim got a package in the mail. It was a certificate that read, WINNER! The Lee Hartgrave Fame Award for Best Actor in a Play in 2007.

Lee Hartgrave is a critic and reporter in the San Francisco area. After we got home, we looked for his online review of "Zero Hour" to find out more. Here is what he wrote:

It isn’t Jim Brochu that comes out on the stage – its famed actor Zero Mostel. The play starts with Mostel in his Studio, where he paints. This is also his retreat where he can get away from the world, except for the occasional phone call from his wife demanding that he stop and get something from the store for her. There is a knock at the door – and Mostel yells – “What do want? Who is it?). Finally he gets up and lets the visitor in. It is a Newspaper Reporter (N.Y. Times) who is here for a scheduled interview. An interview that Mostel forgot about or wanted to forget about. Right away, we get the feeling that Mostel is a miserable f—ck. He hates just about everything, and Newspaper reporters are at the top of the list.

Brochu is a master at bringing out all the diverse channels of Mostel’s schizo personality. One minute he is charming as hell, then – the next minute he is screaming at you. He is unpredictable and you have to walk on eggs around him. Brochu also looks amazingly like Mostel. His eyes are bulging and they seem to bulge out even more when he gets into talking about McCarthy and blacklisting of actors. Mostel was one of them, and he has never gotten over it. His telling of the tale of McCarthy cross-examining him is brilliant.

He was born Samuel Mostel. He was encouraged to change his name to Zero when a friend told him that he should change it. Mostel wanted to know what was wrong with Samuel? The friend said something like this: “When was the last time that you got a job?” It turns out that it had been some time. “Exactly”, said the friend. “It’s Zero. So that will be your new name.” The name has been good for the actor.

Mostel is probably best known for the play “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” But, along the way he had made a huge splash in many plays, especially Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Mostel’s best friend – the one who changed his first name was actor Philip Loeb, who could not deal with the blacklisting stain. His career slipped, as did many in those times. He committed suicide. Mostel was devastated. Brochu’s telling of those days is very heart-rending.

Throughout this tour-de-force by Brochu he takes us on a bumpy hilarious ride with funny quips to deep emotional feelings that Mostel had on various subjects. Who else could be better suited to bring Mostel back to life than Brochu, who was also a friend of Mostel’s. He had plenty of time to absorb the mans inner feelings. This is big time acting that is headed for Broadway. Instead of spending the bucks to see it in New York – why not see it here before it goes there? ZERO IS A PLUS!

AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! –trademarked- (highest rating)
WINNER! The Lee Hartgrave Fame Award for Best Actor in a Play in 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Real Gypsy


[Forwarded message from The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts'
electronic eNewsletter - please feel free to repost where appropriate.]

Just about everyone who knows theater knows GYPSY, the
landmark 1959 Broadway musical based on the life of
Burlesque show stripper, best-selling author, and larger-
than-life personality Gypsy Rose Lee (1914-1970). The
Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) has videorecorded
the show several times over the years, including
productions starring Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and, most
recently, Patti LuPone as Mama Rose (the character based on
Lee's mother), supported by various actresses in the title
role of GYPSY. However, some researchers may be surprised
to learn that TOFT also holds 76 episodes of Gypsy Rose
Lee's own talk show, taped in California in the mid-1960s
and hosted by the real article herself. Lee was making TV
appearances as early as 1949 and hosted her first talk show
in '58, but her most successful and long-lasting program
was the daytime series produced for San Francisco's station
KGO-TV from 1965 to 1968, titled simply GYPSY ROSE LEE.

TOFT's collection of this series was donated to the archive
several years ago by Erik Preminger, Lee's son by film
director Otto Preminger. The tapes do not represent a
complete run of the show, but nonetheless include a number
of fascinating episodes featuring an often surprising line-
up of talent. Lee, who began her career as a child
performer in Vaudeville, drew upon her extensive show
business contacts to attract colorful personalities from
the worlds of theatre, film, TV, popular music, and
elsewhere. Catalog records for all 76 episodes of the show
are in CATNYP , so by typing
the title of the show into the Title search field,
a researcher can summon up brief descriptions of the
library's holdings. Click on the title field of any
record, and a full description of that episode will appear.

For theater buffs perhaps the most intriguing episode is
the one featuring Ethel Merman, who introduced the role of
Mama Rose in the original Broadway production of GYPSY.
Merman reminisces about that experience as Lee shows home
movie footage of the rehearsals at the New Amsterdam
Theatre, giving us brief glimpses of composer Jule Styne,
director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, and lyricist Stephen
Sondheim. Other episodes of the show feature interviews
with the likes of Chita Rivera, Eddie Foy Jr., fan dancer
Sally Rand, Van Johnson, Yvonne De Carlo, Liberace, Flip
Wilson, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Morita, diarist Anaos Nin,
Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols, female impersonator T. C.
Jones, Pat O'Brien, the ill-fated Bob Crane of HOGAN'S
HEROS, and a very young Woody Allen. The musical guests
contribute numbers you won't hear anywhere else: Lainie
Kazan performs a sexy novelty tune entitled "Peel Me a
Grape," jazz vocalist Carmen McRae sings "Live for Love"
backed by her touring band, and Norman Wisdom performs the
title tune from Walking Happy while comedian Red Buttons
dances. There are also references to contemporary events
and cultural trends of the era, such as the war in Vietnam
and San Francisco's then-flourishing hippie movement. Lee
often refers to her own interests and causes, especially
animal rights.

The Gypsy Rose Lee collection offers a mother lode of
material for pop culture historians, and is one of TOFT's
little-known treasures.

Charlie Morrow
Librarian, Theatre on Film and Tape
Here is the newest International Carnival of Pozitivities. Lots of great information and updates on AIDS news from blogs and news sources all over the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Variety Reviews Zero Hour

Variety, (the show biz bible), reviews Zero Hour in San Francisco. It's a terrific review.

Obnoxious can be funny if it's safely on the other side of the footlights. One is grateful for that unbreached fourth wall in "Zero Hour," which has Jim Brochu reincarnating the force of nature known as Zero Mostel. An autobiographical monologue disguised as an interview with an unseen reporter, the one-man show visits Mostel just before his abrupt 1977 demise. Scheduled for Gotham early next year, the modest but engaging solo show stands a good chance of connecting with older theatregoers for whom the subject's name still carries currency.

A larger-than-life personality who would be unbearable if he weren't just as entertaining as he thinks he is, Mostel is found in his dingy "sanctuary" of a studio -- painting being a lifelong passion, even more than performing.

Brochu (Off Broadway's "The Big Voice: God or Merman?") first impresses with his striking physical resemblance, contrived via a two-tone beard, comb-over and facial expressions. But it's his motor-mouth, seldom on any setting less than Maximum Rant, that cinches the impersonation.

Alternately (when not simultaneously) insulting, generous, enraged, polite and sentimental, Mostel starts out calling his New York Times guest "putz." When that offends, he kindly switches to "schmuck."More-or-less chronological recap of the thesp's life and times dashes through his childhood, early career as a nightclub comedian, ditched first marriage, lasting second one (though he seems to view wedlock, like everything else, in combative terms), abortive first stab at Hollywood, and bright prospects as a stage actor.

That was put in deep freeze for a full decade, however, when he was blacklisted along with many other entertainment-industry leftists during the HUAC witch hunts. This "intellectual Final Solution," which particularly targeted Jews, provides the evening with its dramatic core -- and seemingly provided Mostel with a bottomless well of bitter fury.When Mostel's career finally revived -- playing Leopold Bloom in "Ulysses in Nighttown" Off Broadway and Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" were the start -- his greatest triumphs found him most grudgingly re-united with Jerome Robbins, who had "named names" to save himself. (After recounting how he confronted the choreographer and his "loose lips" at the start of a rehearsal period, he allows "You know, that little weasel is a genius.")

Genuinely appreciative as he is toward some colleagues, Mostel is also resentful, pointlessly volatile, perverse -- and often knowingly very funny while acting out.

A casting third choice for his defining triumphs, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Fiddler on the Roof," he admits he loathed the former (but couldn't refuse its sky-high star salary), and thought the latter "wasn't much." (Anecdotes about how drastically both were revamped during try-outs are fascinating.)

He hated, hated, hated "The Producers," his best known film, apparently because he thought he looked like a fat slob in it. (No argument there.) Then again, he rages over the unpardonable offense of not getting to play Tevye again in the "Fiddler" movie.

For all the volatility deftly captured and bottled by Brochu, Mostel's restless mind can't stop cracking jokes either, or impeccably timing every hairpin turn in mood or volume for comic effect.

Brochu's text is compact and colorful and Brendan James' direction tight, but the production's design elements (pretty much limited to some shifting lighting emphases and occasional background sound snippets) are modest. Does the studio (for which no set designer is credited) have to look that drab? Hanging a few sketches and paintings around wouldn't hurt.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zero Hour: SF Chronicle

Review: 'Zero Hour' a fitting tribute to theatrical force of nature

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CRITICS CHOICE

POLITE APPLAUSE Zero Hour: One-man drama. Written and performed by Jim Brochu. Directed by Brendan James. (Through Nov. 25. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. One hour, 45 minutes. Tickets: $35-$40. Call (415) 861-8972 or go to www.nctcsf.org.)

Jim Brochu must have had a charmed life. Not only did he grow up knowing Ethel Merman, he also had a fairly long friendship with Zero Mostel. No matter how many other theater legends he's known, it's almost impossible to top that combination.

Actor and playwright Brochu made good use of his Merman intimacy in "The Big Voice: God or Merman?," the long-running off-Broadway hit he co-wrote and performed with his partner, composer Steve Schalchlin, delightfully reprised at New Conservatory Theatre Center earlier this season. Now he's back at NCTC in a pre-New York run of "Zero Hour," a one-man tribute to Mostel for which he won a best-play award in Los Angeles last year.

It isn't as beguilingly disarming or original an effort as "Voice." "Zero" is a more standard famous-person portrait with the usual thin excuse to explain why the subject is telling his life story (the audience is a reporter come for an interview). Brochu's effort to re-create and sustain Mostel's boisterous unpredictability, quick wit and eruptions of real and assumed outrage can seem artificial and mannered at times.

But it's an impressive tour de force for the most part (Brochu should get some kind of award just for keeping his eyes bulging in the Mostel manner), a fitting tribute to an irreplaceable force of theatrical nature and a suitably outraged account of the cultural and political purges known as McCarthyism and their invidiously anti-Semitic effect. It's also an often eye-opening account of Mostel's life, from his childhood ambitions to be an artist (he often said he was a painter who acted to support his family), work as a stand-up comic (and how Samuel Mostel acquired the nickname Zero) to the accident that crushed his left leg just when his career was reviving after a decade of being blacklisted.

The interview-play takes place in Mostel's cluttered studio (he sketches as he talks) in 1977, on the eve of rehearsals for Arnold Wesker's "The Merchant" (later retitled "Shylock") - a few months before Mostel died, at 62, after the first preview in Philadelphia. Mostel is peremptory, anarchic, outrageous, reflective, furious and very funny; Brochu peppering his script with the great comic's best quips. He's also touching, recounting the deep pain of being disowned by his parents for marrying a gentile and the abiding sorrow of losing his best friend, the actor Philip Loeb, who committed suicide after his career was destroyed by the blacklist.

There are few insights into Mostel's actorly art, his amazing transformation into a rhinoceros in Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" or his creation of Tevye's intimacy with his God (and some of his lyrics) in "Fiddler on the Roof." There are also stories that may be apocryphal, such as his tirade at Jerome Robbins, who'd named names, when Robbins took over rehearsals for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (in other accounts, Mostel simply said, "Hiya, loose lips").

But this is Mostel talking, and it could be what he wished he'd said. The amount of material and insight Brochu packs into the show is impressive, entertaining and salutary. If he isn't as light on his physical and dramatic feet as Mostel was, few are. His "Zero" is a moving tribute and a cautionary tale, generally well told.

Workin' On The Night Crew (band video)



A band video of the song "Workin' On The Night Crew." Steve, Daniel, Marta & Ned along with KC who couldn't play cuz he had smashed his finger the night before. It sucks to have a job. Everything was done in one take cuz we were too tired to fix any mistakes. Oh, and Daniel's still looking for work. He's the insufferably cute emo-looking straight boy on guitar. Marta, Ned, KC and Steve have a once a year gig in a band called Preocuppied Pipers, part of the International Pop Overthrow.

Produced by Vinnie's Vipers at Timbertrout Studios in Oakland. (Which would be us in KC's garage). Shot on a Sony Handydam with a broken automatic lens cover. KC Bowman: Engineer (with the big glasses), background vocals. Ned Sykes: Drums, background vocals. Marta Sykes: Bass, background vocals, but she is one of the most awesome singers in the world). Daniel Bernstein: Guitar (we didn't actually know he could play -- Steve brought him along to hold the video camera). Steve Schalchlin: Piano, lead vocal.

There is also an mpg4 of this over at http://blip.tv/file/481101 and we encourage mash-ups of our music, especially if you include actual pictures of people workin' a graveyard shift.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chronicle Blurb for Zero Hour

The full review is not out, but Jim was given CRITICS CHOICE today in the SF Chronicle. This is the full blurb:

Polite ApplauseJim Brochu, who channeled an impressive Ethel Merman in The Big Voice: God or Merman, takes on another theatrical legend he's known in his one-man tribute to the great Zero Mostel, as the actor looks back over his life on the eve of rehearsals for what would be his last play if he'd lived for the opening. The setup is trite and Brochu's performance is mannered at times, but this is a very funny, often moving and suitably outraged account of Mostel�s life, his wonderfully anarchic humor and the terrible impact of the cultural and political purges known as McCarthyism.
--R. Hurwitt

Zero Opens!

This past weekend was one of the most fun weekends of my entire life -- and that's saying a lot. First of all, Jimmy was dazzling on opening night. Seriously. I know I brag about my husband a lot, but Saturday night, he had that audience whipped into a frenzy. And he did it again on Sunday afternoon. It was absolutely electrifying. Here are some screen shots:








After the show, Daniel (yes! THE Daniel) and I drove over to Oakland to Timbertrout Studios where we recorded the most garage band version of "The Night Crew" you could ever imagine. It was KC, Marta and Ned, along with two dogs and Daniel. Now, the reason I dragged Daniel along was because he was so good on the video before, I thought he could tape us recording the song. Who knew he was a great musician? He picked up the guitar and kicked our asses.

So, I will have pics, video and music of that adventure soon. Stayed tuned!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Evil of the Closet

Lately, there have been numerous stories on various websites and in local newspapers about men getting caught by authorities having "gay sex" in public places, Senator Larry Craig being the most famous.



But all over the country, Republican politicians are getting caught right and left engaging in public, illegal, anonymous sex. You cannot believe how many of these stories are popping up. And all of these people have things in common:

1. They are vehemently anti-gay in their political views. So, they stand and tell the masses how "evil" homosexuality is, and how they stand for "family values" (because, presumably, there are no gay people in anyone's family).

2. They are closeted.

3. They are in denial about their gayness.

I read recently that in all the "sting" operations conducted by local police on places where so-called gay men are having public sex, almost NONE of the people were actually OUT of the closet gay men. In one sting there was not a single man arrested who wasn't married and pretending to be straight. IT AIN'T US DOING THIS CRAP.


In other words, ACTUAL gay people who live their lives openly and freely are not the ones frequenting these parks and bathrooms. Sure, there was a time in the not so distant past when parks and bathrooms and other dark places were the only places gay people could even find each other. (And I'm not saying that there isn't a subset that doesn't enjoy anonymous, public sex, but it's only a very, very few of the millions of out, proud, happy, well-adjusted, spiritually centered gay people in existence in this country).

That's why I get really annoyed when people who hate us use these bathrooms and parks against us when they start talking about how "dirty" or "sinful" we are. Folks, WE ARE NOT THE ONES DOING IT. Who's doing it? The "straight" man who is angry and loudly hateful of gay persons. I guarantee you behind almost every homophobe with a big mouth is a closeted queer trying to hide his true nature by telling everyone else how terrible gay people are -- and how we should be denied the right to marry.

The irony is that if all these people would stop lying to themselves and become a part of our community, the bathrooms and the parks would once again be safe for families. You want REAL family values? Tell your homophobic, anti-gay, venom-spouting legislator to shut the hell up and start doing what it ACTUALLY takes to create a safe environment: Come out of the closet, find a partner, shut yer yap about how "evil" everyone else is, and start living a normal life.

Getting Settled.

And Zero is on! That's me trying to do "Zero eyes." I just don't quite have it.

It's been fun getting settled into San Francisco again. We have our favorite grocery store (Cala Foods up on California Street). The cats (that's Steinbeck above) are enjoying the new place the theatre has stashed us. Jim has been focusing very intently on the script for Zero Hour and has made some really nice changes that are getting big laughs in these previews.

Jim does "Zero eyes" pretty well.

People have been asking about our plans to take Zero to New York and the answer to that question is that I can't discuss it yet. I can tell you that there are plans. There are other people involved. But there is no venue or date set. But the people who are interested are very serious and it's not a pie in the sky dream. I would love to tell you more, but it's not my place. But stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the New Conservatory Theatre has put up a very nice set on the same stage where we did The Big Voice not long ago. I love this space and if you ever wanted to see the volcano that is Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel, this is a great venue. For the past several nights, I've been sitting in various parts of the house. And it's equally impactful no matter where I plant myself.

John Kelly, the lighting designer.

Jim Brochu's personal stand-in for focusing lights.

The set for "Zero Hour" in San Francisco.

Jim in Zero make-up with his extremely adorable stage manager, Travis.

Opening night is tonight!

And for the last picture of this entry, I provide the answer to why I love having a cat:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

First Previews Special Offer


Jim had his first preview last night and the audience went absolutely nuts. There is a theatre next to us and the actors told me later that they could hear the laughs all the way into their room.

However, given the fact that this is a last minute booking, the lead-time for promotion has been very short and so we're trying to get the word out to everyone in San Francisco that the show is here. If you're a reader of this blog, and you can get there tonight or tomorrow night during the previews, we'll give you a $20 ticket. Just call the box office, tell them you read about it on the Bonus Round blog and that you'd like the special advance preview price.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why The Writers Are Striking.

In case you don't keep up with such things, the Writers Guild of America is now on strike against the film and tv producers. I learned early on when I moved to Los Angeles how abused and disrespected writers are. It was glaringly apparent in the world of songwriting where credits were routinely left off of product, where writers were constantly being asked to take a lower royalty, and where ruthless singers demanded a portion of the song copyright in order to put that song on their record.

In the world of TV, the writers finally just started demanding a producer credit on tv shows in order to find a way to make some kind of living wage. In other words, it wasn't good enough to be a writer. You have to step "up" on the ladder to producer to get any kind of respect.

Mark Evanier has penned an excellent blog entry about the history of how the writers have been, well, gutless cowards in the past, allowing their wages to continually be rolled back -- or allowing themselves to be excluded entirely from some forms of media. Naturally, as Mark puts it, the producers, always smelling blood in the water whether there's any there or not, have tried to totally screw over the writers again. And this time the writers said no.

So, soon everything on TV is going to be a rerun, especially late night TV. At least, until the producers start to feel the pain. Or until the writers give up (again).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Two Crybabies.

The latest viral video. It's so adorable, I can't stand it.

USS Metaphor Sails!

I had a great chat with Ken McPherson yesterday, happily reconnecting with him after too long a time. There was a time when we were Cyber Siamese Twins.
(I met Ken about 10 years ago through the Net. At the time, we were mostly discussing the political aspects of the continuing Christians vs. Homos / gay vs. exgays debate. However, as we became friends, I discovered that he is a talented lyricist, arranger and singer who set aside his career in the mid-80s to become an AIDS activist, creating and manning an AIDS education booth on the street corner at Hibernia Beach in the Castro in San Francisco.)
I was happily congratulating him over the fact that this past year, he helped write (and received a featured solo role in) a new piece written and performed by the San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus called USS Metaphor which, among other things, wickedly uses Ken's knowledge of the issues he and I have been talking about for years. I didn't get to see the performances, but I have discovered that they made a DVD and will restage the show on February 22 and 23 to celebrate the release.)

Following its triumphant debut at Davies Symphony Hall last year, SFGMC's hilarious adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore is back for an encore. This special concert celebrates the release of the USS Metaphor DVD.

Next year is also the 30th Anniversary of the chorus. They were the first gay chorus. From their site:
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus made its official debut on December 20, 1978, though it first appeared informally singing a memorial hymn on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall in late November 1978, the evening Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated.
Though he's largely unknown in the hetero community, Harvey Milk was the hero of our movement who was assassinated. Harvey had this ability to communicate with everyone from a street level. He was the first openly gay elected city supervisor. He was murdered, along with the mayor, George Moscone, by a man who only served seven years in prison. There was even a riot.

So, this next year is a very important year for gay people, but especially for the Chorus since it was the year of their birth. Out of the ashes of the death of one man, an entire generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people discovered that they were in a fight for their own survival. This was a world that wanted us invisible.

Even today, with all our strides in the public arena, there is still a real voice out there that wants us to go away, to not exist. Sadly, the people who wish this on us are mostly religious.

On Saturday, our first full day in the city, I walked down Mason to Market St. to look at the cable cars. Down on Market where the people were lined up to take a ride, was a group of "ministers" with these HUGE signs. I mean GIGANTIC signs showing gay people burning in hell. Bla. Bla. Bla. (I'll take some pics later if you want.)

And I thought about 30th Anniversary concert of the SFGMC. 30 years ago they were shooting at us. Now, they're just a bunch of grown-up clowns, making them and whatever "Jesus" they're "worshipping" look ridiculous. I saw other people standing there angry at them, trying to "reason" with them or argue with them -- and it all made me laugh. It really did. They're literally clowns doing clown things. Their hatred for gays has made them mentally ill. Only a mentally ill person would display such an ostentatious demonstration of religiopathy.

And, yeah, I laughed. Sad, pathetic souls. I was not going to let them ruin this day. In fact, the sky was crystal clear, the air was fresh, the people were bright and cheerful, the city looked spectacular. AND I had just found a book I didn't know was out in paperback: Transcendent by Stephen Baxter, a hard SF writer I am currently obsessed with. (It's the third of a trilogy and I had JUST finished book two).

I walked up just a few blocks and found a grouping of about four Indian restaurants. I decided on the one that looked the most like a diner, sat down in the middle of the well-lit room, opened my book, and let the helplessly overworked waitress work around me. When she finally found me, she took my order and then brought me my Diet Coke, but also a pitcher of water and a dry glass. (I had asked for ice water and a Coke with ice). When she found me 15 minutes later, she saw that I hadn't touched the glass. So I asked for ice.

So, she brought me one glass of ice, which I then poured my Coke into. It was perhaps 40 minutes before any food was brought to me. I didn't care. I was reading. And it was the wrong order. So she took it to someone else. 10 minutes later, she began serving me my somosas appetizer. Then, I had Chicken Vindaloo, the spiciest thing on the menu. As she was serving the vindaloo, she noticed that I had a warm pitcher of water still sitting on my table.

Completely puzzled, she asked if I would like a glass. I look at her with a big smile (not snarky), "Well, unless you think I should drink this from the pitcher..." And the laughed out loud. As she trailed off, I shouted... "With ice!"

I love San Francisco.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Jim and Jan.

Jim makes his first media appearance in San Francisco by being on Jan Wahl's segment of the KRON-4 Saturday morning news. EVERYbody (but everybody) watches Jan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quick Personal Update.

Another big offer has come my way, and I'm not sure if I can officially announce it yet. If it does come through, it will be among the most challenging and meaningful things that could ever happen to me. It would be a dream come true. So, I don't want to jinx it by saying too much.

On that note, the also challenging and meaningful show Amy, Jim and I have been collaborating on is moving along nicely. We have 20 songs or more ready to go. Since I've been home, I've been working on them constantly while checking in with the medical professionals who keep me alive. I've focused on music rather than this blog. Or video. Now that I have 114, or whatever it is, videos on YouTube under the name steveshack, I actually have video fans! Or fan, anyway.

Healthwise, the new shoes are working out fine. I still favor my right foot when I walk. I'm always aware of how it's hitting the pavement. Knowing where that pressure point is, I want to give it every chance to heal. I have not started to run yet. Going up to San Francisco soon will be good because I can climb hills there, which is low impact exercise. How cold is it there? Geez, we have clothes for arctic New York or balmy El Lay. Not sure we have San Francisco clothing.

The other thing I did today was I went to the hospital to get a collector bag. It seems that I'm putting out a lot of protein (again) in my urine. It suggests that something may be affecting my kidneys.

In fact, when I went down to pick up my collector bag (doesn't that sound like party swag?), this brick red plastic inverted jug (neatly hidden away in a white plastic shopping bag), I ran into Dr. Ruchi on the sidewalk outside.

"Got something for me?" She eyed.

"No. Today I'm picking up."

"This is not something to worry about. You see my face?"

It's a young and beautiful face. Raven black hair. Dark brown, liquid East Indian eyes. Mischievous smile.

"Yes, I see your face." (She really is beautiful).

"When it's time to worry, you'll see it in my face. This is not my worry face."

I told her, "I've done this before, you know. Ten years ago. I've always had protein in my urine."

I might have said that a little too loud. (I wasn't using my spa voice.)

Got in the car and took it in for servicing. There's a big new grocery store over on Lankershim and I thought I could let them give it a once-over while I check out the new stores. (There was a juice bar with a sign out front begging people to vote for them for "Best Fruit Juice". And I thought, Why would I do that?).

So, today, collector bag in hand, I will stride forth.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speaking of The Last Session...

I was approached by someone very seriously and passionately committed to seeing it all the way through as a movie. With electronics getting so cheap and with the current resurgence in musical movies, I really do feel like the time is now. As much as I might enjoy all the other songs and things that have been a result of finger tapping on keyboard or keyboards (music or computer), the music from this show means the most to me. In fact, the entire show means the most to me. Weirdly, even though The Big Voice was our most specifically personal project (being an autobiography and all), it's The Last Session that FEELS the most personal. I can't sing those songs without losing it.

On our cruise to Norway, a bunch of the people we had met on the ship -- both gay and straight; one woman who was a cancer survivor -- gathered together one afternoon and asked me to sing my "AIDS songs" which I had been talking about so much.

It was a tear-drenched afternoon in that little lounge. Let me tell you.

Toward the end, I started singing a bunch of my new comedic stuff just to lift the pall from the room. But the intense emotional outpouring invested in those songs never goes away. Never.

That's why I'm thrilled that there is going to be a brand new production this next season in Norwich Connecticut. And the guy Brett, the artistic director at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre, has chosen for Gideon makes my heart palpitate. I can't say too much until it's all official, but Jim and I have been invited to Norwich on Dec. 6th to host their annual awards show. ("We couldn't get Kathy Griffin, so we're asking you.")

So, we're the "not Kathy Griffin!" I like that. I wish I had her sharp tongue. Well, actually I do. But I don't let Loud Steve out of his cage very often. Makes me wonder if I shouldn't do a Loud Steve blog where I let my other, uninhibited side loose. That'd be fun!

But seeing all this action around The Last Session start to sizzle makes me a very happy boy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Unknown TLS

Funny what happens when you surf the Net. Jim discovered this clip of a production of The Last Session. Whoever this is, they totally kick ass. Apparently, it's from a production that was done in Florida featuring Gary Waldman as Gideon. I gotta tell ya. This group is really good.

Cat 300.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Smoky Sky Outside.


The air here in the San Fernando Valley smells like smoke. Last night, when we went out for dinner, it was burning the back of my throat. Today, with all the TV newspeople telling us to stay inside as much as possible, I stepped outside to just take a look at the sky and the above photograph shows you what I saw. A thick cloud of dark, reddish tinged smoke lying across the Valley. On the horizon, you can see the blue sky and what it would look like if the fires weren't raging all around us.

We are not in any danger zone with regards to the fire, but the smoke is something else...

Is There A Physics To Musical Healing?

I recently received a fascinating email from a reader who saw some of my blogs writings about musical healing, and about how writing and singing the music for The Last Session, had a measurably healing effect on my body.

From Stuart Vail:

Steve,

I had a chance to read some of your writings online and was intrigued by what you had to say about the healing aspects of music. You may be interested in an editorial I wrote in my Internet magazine, of which this is an excerpt:

A French scientist who became interested in the connection between frequencies and sound discovered that a molecule can be broken down into a chain of amino acids, each possessing its own frequency, which is a vibration measured in cycles per second. In music, the "A" above middle "C" resonates at 440 cycles per second, therefore any molecule can be translated into musical terms. The scientist analyzed the frequencies of the amino acid chain for the molecule prolactin, a milk-inducing hormone, and notated the resulting melodic pattern. The melody was then played to a group of cows for eleven minutes every hour for a week. The cows then began to produce the largest quantity of milk anyone had ever seen, and it was by far the sweetest -- yielding the most flavorful cheese anyone had ever tasted.

Imagine the good that can come of this. The healing powers of music, written with the proper "amino acid/melodic relationships," could be wildly phenomenal. But, consider the potential for evil. In the 1930s the famous Argentinean tango composer, Carlos Gardel, composed a tango with a haunting melody which had a very strange effect on people. Many who heard it became severely depressed. There was a documented case of someone who jumped out of a window to her death. The French scientist analyzed the melody and, reversing the process, determined what chain of amino acids would be created by the melodic frequencies. The result was a drug that is a known major depressant.

How was Gardel to know? Imagine the power of music -- its powers to soothe, seduce, and heal. But with knowledge of molecular structures and their frequency relationships one could conceivably create melodies designed to kill. As of this writing, the French government has confiscated all of the scientist's research and has prohibited any further work on his part to this end.

Copyright 2001 by Stuart Vail

*************

Here is the full piece:
What do you think, reader? Is there a conspiracy afloat to keep a medication based on vibrations out of the market or is this a theory for Snopes to figure out? I'm not sure if I fully believe that vibrations can be turned into a medication as in the above story, but I do know what music did for me -- and what's done for countless others. I like what he says here at the end of his editorial:
Imagine a rhythm started by one person playing a conga drum at the pace of an average heartbeat. A neighbor hears the rhythm and joins in, perhaps playing a tambourine. Another plays along on a tom-tom. Someone else down the street adds to the rhythm with hand claps. Soon, the entire block is involved in a rhythmic jam session, pulsing out a groove for the rest of the neighborhood to hear. Others join in, and the beat travels to outlying areas. Entire communities become united in one collective rhythm. Like “Hands Across America” the country is soon linked coast-to-coast with a national heartbeat. It spreads across both borders into Mexico and Canada. Via telephone lines and satellite the beat travels overseas to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. The earth pulses with a unifying world beat. Every country is of one people, vibrating at the same frequency. Global entrainment. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the potential.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Safe Schools Coalition Uses My Music.

I am very happy to have been informed that the Safe Schools Coalition has chosen to use three of my songs on their terrifically informative website. They're using "William's Song" on the page discussing Bias Crime, Hatred and Extremism.
"The Closet" on their Coming Out resources page.

"Intro to Gabi's Song" and "Will It Always Be Like This" on their Suicide resources page.

and all the songs are linked here:
Music on the Safe Schools Coalition Website.

Faithless Love - Blake Zolfo & Steve Schalchlin

Listen to us sing! One final show on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 7pm at The Metropolitan Room.