BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.
Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
And why has Randy gotten all hot and bothered? Well, because Suze has a lot of money! Apparently, according to Randy, you don't deserve civil rights unless you are indigent and have been fire hosed. From Jim's site:
Madam C.J. Walker rose from being an uneducated washing woman in St. Louis to becoming one of the richest women in American. Through her own determination, she put herself and her daughter through school. And when she started to have problems with her hair falling out, she invented a line of hair care products which were designed and sold specially for African-American women. She soon become not just one of the wealthiest Black women in American, she was one of the wealthiest women in America period. She founded her business in 1906, and by 1913 her company employed twenty thousand sales agents in the United States, Central America and the Caribbean. Her sales agents, who were mostly of African descent themselves, earned $25 a week — a far cry from the $2 a week that washing women normally earned at that time. When Madam Walker died in 1915 at her New York mansion, she left behind an estate worth some seven million dollars in today’s money.
Using Randy's logic, she wouldn't be eligible for civil equality.
I know Randy personally and he lives under the delusion that he is a loving person to us gays because he goes out and tells the conservative Christians to love us and bring us coffee cake if we live next door. Thanks, but no thanks, Randy. I don't need the coffee cake. What I'd like is the same rights as heterosexual human beings. I know, as you date that lesbian friend of yours and the two of you pretend to have "feelings" -- and who wouldn't after 10 years of self-enforced non-masturbatory celibacy; ever been to a prison? -- that you and "the girlfriend," if you get married, will enjoy all the rights that you will be denying your fellow same sex attracted "coffee cake friends."
But maybe, just maybe, you might want to try to think about someone besides yourself for a change. There are other people on this planet. And we have families, too.
Hat tip: Pam's House Blend
The other drug acts on a protein, CCR5, created by the body itself. It lies on the surface of the t-cell and the virus uses it as an entry point. The new drug blocks this protein. Since this protein is a part of the body itself (whereas integrase is created by the virus), the longterm effects are unknown. For instance, it's possible the body uses that protein elsewhere for something important. However, they've discovered that there are patients whose bodies have naturally blocked the protein and they are among the longterm survivors who haven't needed additional HIV drugs.
There is, however, another protein entry point used by about 15% of HIV viruses (which, as you might know, mutate). The fear is that by blocking CCR5, the virus will simply mutuate to the other entry point. However, this hasn't been indicated in patients whose bodies naturally inhibit CCR5.
These new drugs represent the first NEW classes of HIV medications in over 10 years.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I have always believed that there are no accidents in life. Why do we choose to walk down a certain street where we meet an old friend rather than take a different path where there's no friend to meet? Right now, I'm fulfilling a dream by starring in an off-Broadway musical about my life because I went to a play instead of a movie, chose parochial school over public and took a cruise to Bermuda rather than Alaska.
These disconnected events led to writing The Big Voice: God or Merman? and coming back to my hometown and the Actors Temple Theatre after years of wandering the deserts of the San Fernando Valley...
Monday, February 26, 2007
(Jim and I are leaving the show March 11th, if you haven't been keeping up, as we're recasting the show this week with two new actors to be announced next week.)
I looked at him and said, "I really hadn't thought about it, but yeah, I guess it will be an emotional evening."
I've been working so hard on updating the score and scheduling as many rehearsals with Devin Richards, Rhe De Ville, Stephen Wilde and as many other singers as I can, that I haven't really thought about it very much. I'm so excited to see the show in new hands -- to finally see it as we dreamed it: An authentic musical being done by New York actors -- that it just didn't occur to me to think about March 11th as a "last" day. The show will go on. And, who knows, we might even come back and do it again here if it continues to grow.
The funny thing about a show is that when it's running, you think it's going to run forever. I can't even IMAGINE The Big Voice not running. I feel like we OWN the Actors' Temple. It feels so permanent. I do want it to run forever!
The Equity open casting call is this next Friday. Who knows who will walk in the door? All I know is I'm very excited to see the show from the audience for the very first time. It was thrilling to see The Last Session that way. I know The Big Voice is going to be just as powerful.
Also, for smaller theaters who would like to license The Big Voice. Have good news. Samuel French has licensed the show for stock and amateur rights. It will be available soon. When I get a more specific release date, I'll post it here and on the The Big Voice site. How exciting! I just know that there are two mature men in just about every city in the country would love to play the romantic leads for a change. (And it's funny to think that they'll be portraying Jim and myself. What started out as a one night concert has turned into this off-Broadway, critically acclaimed hit musical. Funny how that works. You do your work and the next thing you know, you're on 47th Street being portrayed by another actor.)
Life is funny.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
EDIT: In a related story, Joe.My.God. posted a link:
Remember Rev. Lonnie W. Latham, the Oklahoma Baptist minister who loudly advocated against gay marriage and for gay people to reject our "sinful, destructive lifestyle". That is, right up until his arrest last month for for offering an undercover cop a blowjob. Today, Latham's lawyer asked for the case to be thrown out, citing Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark SCOTUS decision that legalized consensual homosex nationwide.
Oh. The. Irony.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I just uploaded a corrected version of "How Do You Fall Back In Love." It has several egregious mistakes on it. You can get it here: http://thebigvoice.com/score/14-HowDoYouFall.doc. Its a WORD file.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
She came to the show this past Saturday when I offered tickets to her and her very handsome, hunky husband -- the point of which was "SING MY SONGS." She came by way of Amy, who told me about her fantastic video on YouTube, which I will post at the end of this blog. She was also a close friend and sometime caregiver to the late, recently departed Morgan Rice.
She and I share a belief that the only way to survive in this business is to keep true to yourself and what you are at your core, musically. Like me, she has endured the slings and arrows of people who think we're aren't quite hip enough, "current" enough, not enough like all the others out there, etc. And, like me, her reaction to this kind of criticism was to ignore it and turn away from the world, focusing even more on our own qualities and letting the rest of the world catch up.
What I remember about Saturday was that she came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes telling me how much she loved my voice and my singing. (THANK YOU!) And she wasn't just kissing my ass (since there's absolutely no reason in the world why she would need to do that). We discussed this a bit at our lunch.
She said, "You have a genuine, innocent sweetness that comes across. It's my favorite kind of singing." I told her how my vocal abilities had been slammed by a few reviews who were basically positive about the show, but seemed to be less than impressed by how I sang. She bit into them, "That's because they're looking for that Broadway big voice projectile singing. If they don't get it, they think you can't sing. You're a stylist. I think I could listen to your voice all day long."
I was totally overwhelmed by this reaction. I tried to let her off the hook and tell her that it wasn't really necessary since I wasn't here to push my voice, but my songs. "No, I'm serious. There are so few stylists these days. You sing directly from the heart. All the technique in the world can't match that."
She said she faced some of the same type of criticism. I've heard her sing, so I can't imagine anyone challenging her technique, but one thing is true. She definitely sings from the heart and she definitely has her own style.
One of the things I love most about the video below is that it illustrates the life of a singer in New York trying to survive. She will sing at a benefit where multi-billionaires are in the audience and she has to show up in a beautiful dress, looking like millionaire. And how does she do this? By culling the bins at discount stores, having her gay friends put together a "look," -- queer eye for the gal singer? -- and putting on a show.
We also talked about various weird gigs we've had. She told me of the time she showed up at a bar where the band was OVER the bar. Then someone said, "Where's your microphone?" Who knew she had to bring her own microphone?
We spoke about Morgan. How he knew six months before he died that he had contracted PML but didn't tell anyone. So, he knew he was dying, but said he "didn't want to burden his friends." Many people I've known with AIDS took the same tack, not realizing that they were actually depriving their friends of the chance for their last goodbyes, the privilege of taking care of them, of the time to grieve before it was too late.
I gave her a CD of songs and we promised to get together again soon.
I have to say, as a corollary here that it's incredible to be getting so much respect as a singer and songwriter compared to the emptiness of Los Angeles, where you only get respect if you are on the latest toilet bowl commercial or can construct a "groove" that everyone will love for two weeks.
For me, songwriting is about the melody, the lyrics and the chords. Rhe spoke about that, too. She said the magic words, "A great song can be produced to sound like anything you want. That's the producer's job. Lots of people have that ability. Few people know how to write a well constructed song." Long ago, I gave up even trying to find "grooves" or to keep up with the latest "sounds." Sounds come and go. Songs endure forever. Write a great song and the rest comes easily.
I'm finding myself overwhelmed, increasingly, by the number of singers who are coming up to me asking to sing my songs. And the downloads of the sheet music at The Big Voice site are astonishing. Literally thousands of people have downloaded the songs. That makes me very happy.
Now, here's Rhe's hilarious video:
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Mother of the GLBT Civil Rights Movement
PHILADELPHIA—Barbara Gittings, a seminal gay activist, died on Sunday, February 18. She was 75 and resided in Wilmington, Delaware. Her death was announced by her partner of 46 years, Kay Tobin Lahusen.
Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, noted, “Barbara Gittings is the mother of the GLBT civil rights movement. She is our Rosa Parks. Barbara helped organize the first gay and lesbian civil rights demonstrations in the face of a tsunami of homophobia. Her courage helped launch the GLBT civil rights movement.”
Barbara Gittings began her career in activism in 1958 when she founded the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first lesbian organization. She edited DOB’s national magazine The Ladder from 1963 to 1966. Describing those years, Gittings said, “There were scarcely 200 of us in the whole United States. It was like a club; we all knew each other.”
In 1965, Gittings marched in the first gay picket lines at the White House and other federal sites in Washington, DC to protest discrimination by the federal government. She joined other activists in the pioneering annual demonstrations for gay and lesbian civil rights held each July 4 from 1965 to 1969 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. These seminal yearly protests laid the groundwork for the Stonewall rebellion in 1969 and the first New York gay pride parade in 1970. Gittings’ role in these early protests is featured prominently in Equality Forum's documentary, Gay Pioneers.
In the 1970s, Gittings campaigned with other activists to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. She recruited “Dr. H. Anonymous,” a gay psychiatrist who appeared, masked, on a panel at the 1972 APA conference to tell his colleagues why he couldn’t be open in his own profession.
Gittings also crusaded to make gay literature available in libraries. Though not a librarian, Gittings found a home in the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association, the first gay caucus in a professional organization. She edited its Gay Bibliography and wrote a history of the group, Gays in Library Land. Her campaign to promote gay materials and eliminate discrimination in libraries was recognized in 2003 by an honorary lifetime membership conferred by the American Library Association.
For her lifetime of activist work, Gittings was selected as one of 31 leaders for GLBT History Month in October 2006.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
We said we were going to do it and we did. We invited same sex couples to join us for a Valentine's Day wedding ceremony. On the day of the event, yesterday, we got a horrendous snow storm, so two of the couples had to cancel, but we still had three male couples and one female couple. And they were absolutely beautiful. Rabbi Jill, who is also a cantor, performed a beautiful ceremony complete with singing, candle lighting and the breaking of the glass. The NY Gay Men's Chorus thrilled the audience with music and we also had a special guest, Anna Dagmar Johnson.
I'll be editing a video of the event and talking more about it, but for now, here are the photos:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Sondheim's score, a blend of modern music and pastiche can't really be described in the breathtaking way he makes all the lyrics sound like they belonged to the "olden days," but which comment fully on the action taking place in the present. And each song stands on its own as a fully realized SONG. My favorite kind of score.
Last night, we attended a concert staging for the Encore! series here in New York and the audience was packed with celebrities. The cast was more than brilliant. Donna Murphy, Victoria Clark, Victor Garber... all of them magnificent. Naturally, I had my camera in hand for the party afterwards, which we were lucky enough to be invited to.
Jim with Victoria Clark:Both of us with JoAnne Worley:
Bernadette Peters on the stairway backstage:
Mimi Hines, who sang "Broadway Baby":
Lucine Amara, the opera star who sang "One More Kiss":
Crazy, wonderful Bob Fitch ("Rain On The Roof"):
The great Barbara Cook:
Jim tells Stephen Sondheim about THE BIG VOICE:
Christine Baranski ("I'm Still Here"):
Matt Cavanaugh from Grey Gardens (he's an Arkansas boy):
Donna Murphy and Victoria Clark:
Jim with Anne Rogers:
I also shot some video. I'll be editing that soon!
In Yolo County, clerk Freddie Oakley will give the couples a "Certificate of Inequality."
"I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you," the document reads, in part, "Because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality."
"This is my fifth year as county clerk and the fifth year in which I will be refusing marriage licenses to people of the same gender," Oakley said. "It gets harder every year."
Monday, February 12, 2007
Musical theater loves a good romance. Tevye and Golde, Curly and Laurey, and Porgy and Bess are just a few of the couples that live on in stage history. But to these immortal unions I would add the names of Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin, who in their intoxicatingly fresh and unstoppably delightful musical, The Big Voice: God or Merman?, make a case for themselves as a musical theater couple for a new generation.
A case they've certainly won, hands down. (Or, waving with showbiz fervor, as the situation might demand.)
Hey! We're a classic musical theater romance! It was this paragraph, though, that really got to me:
A Baptist from Arkansas, he expected that God's thunderous voice would guide him; instead, he snapped himself on the wrist with rubber bands whenever he began to have impure (i.e., homosexual) thoughts.
The friend who accompanied me to the show—who is at least 25 years younger than Steve—recalled the rubber band technique from his own youth, which suddenly made The Big Voice seem more like a call to arms. With its encouragement to decipher and celebrate the things that (really) speak to us, the show entreats its audience to embrace religious experiences in whatever form they come—instead of "hiding like a superhero has to do," as Steve dourly remembers from his shamed days in the closet.
It's worth reading the whole review.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I'm not sure if they're going to issue this episode as a podcast, but the promised to send me a recording. If they do, I'll find a place to upload it so you can listen.
This isn't to say that previous audiences haven't been good, but we've also had our share of audience members who look at us like we're something from Planet Mars. As I said previously, only word of mouth sells a show like this because we have no big promotional budget and the the media aren't really interested in us (since we didn't kill anyone, pose naked, or win a reality show).
The only thing we have to offer is our story and our talent on a basically bare stage with minimal lighting and no special effects. It's just us. We stand or we fall on what the two of us offer with just our presence and our voices.
The other thing Jimmy said he noticed is that there were lots of people wiping away tears last night. Really and genuinely moved. I can't really see the audience very well (being half-blind without my glasses) so I have to go on "feeling" them. Sometimes I "hear" silence and think they're bored when actually, they're really emotionally involved and, of things, LISTENING.
I'm very proud of The Big Voice. I know it has a message and it entertains. I really do want us to succeed in New York. Our rave reviews gave us a launch, but it's the word of mouth that will keep us going. During this arctic freeze, all the shows are suffering. So, the fact that they're still coming out to see us and cheer us is touching and beautiful.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
They were wonderful.
I forgot one line from the Publicist's Guild luncheon that might asume some.
George Lucas, giving the award to Sid Ganis, who was the in-house publicist on Star Wars: Episode Five - The Empire Strikes Back, said, "Sid is the reason why The Empire Strikes Back is always written about as the best of the films, when it actually was the worst one."
Hmmm. Indeed. Could it be that he said this because it was the one movie in the series Lucas had the least to do with? And has Lucas yet figured out how godawful are the last three Star Wars movies he just made?
Something else the larger world needs to understand about the conservative Christian world when it comes to statements like the minister pronouncing him to be, "completely heterosexual."
THEY THINK EVERYONE IS COMPLETELY HETEROSEXUAL.
Seriously. They deny the existence of homosexual persons altogether. "Gay" is a label that heterosexual people attach to themselves when they prefer to have gay sex.
I know it hard to wrap your mind around that, but that's how they think. Everyone is straight, but some people just get confused -- because daddy didn't love them enough, or mommy was too assertive (can you hear the patriarchal bell ringing?), because they got raped by other heterosexuals who love gay sex -- and start wanting to have gay sex. BUT THEY'RE STILL HETEROSEXUAL.
This is how they justify their silly programs and "ministries" and therapies and conversion camps. By simply denying that fact that we exist at all.
Thus: Ted Haggard is "completely heterosexual."
Friday, February 09, 2007
best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss
hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany
doesn't want to go to war, and three of the most powerful men in America are
named Bush, Dick, and Colon. Need I say more?"
Hat tip: Marle Becker
Here's the problem: They don't believe he's gay. Why? Because he didn't have gay sex as a teenager. HAVE GAY SEX? He was running for his life! He was hiding his homosexuality in order to survive. Hiding his sexual orientation is how he is still alive. So, how does "prove" this board that he's actually gay? Bring in some friends and have an orgy there in the courthouse?
Read his whole story on a website set up to help him. It's an incredible story told by a young man who deserves the best in life. Anytime you think you got it bad, think of what he had to do to survive.
And in a related story, we find out that the KKK is growing again. Why? Because of all them damned "Mexicans" streaming across the border and presence of jerks like Pat Buchanan who seems to be on every single news channel pushing his xenophobic agenda. What a world we live in.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
This weekend, on Sunday's edition of Broadway at Bedtime, I'll be interviewed by Will Conyers. It will play stateside, EST, in a live stream at 5am Sunday at their website at Broadwayatbedtime.com.
What if Philadelphia 76ers forward Shavlik Randolph had said he's not really comfortable with black teammates, but he manages? What if he'd said, "As long as you don't bring your blackness on me I'm fine"? And "As far as business-wise, I'm sure I could play with him. But I think it would create a little awkwardness in the locker room"?
That would be so not OK it's almost impossible to express. Randolph would get a thank-you card from Michael Richards for taking the heat off of him. But Randolph said those things about having a gay teammate, so, hey, no problem.
King Kaufman in Salon
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Alan, who has been proudly proclaiming his own heterosexuality (after 16 years of "struggle") admits that he "is human" and dances around the question of whether he still has same sex attraction, basically admitting without admitting that he does. This is one of the trickier parts of dealing with the Exodus types. They constantly use the phrase "freedom of homosexuality" but when they say it, they mean, "No longer having gay sex" or "living the gay lifestyle" or "identifying" as gay.
In the real world, where they don't live, "freedom from homosexuality" means no longer attracted to persons of the same sex. Unfortunately, this misuse of language is what propels their advertising and promotional campaigns. The dishonest political right machine of James Dobson plays on the double meanings, knowing the public doesn't study this deceptive rhetoric enough to "get" that most of the Exodus people are, in fact, still gay. Gayer than gay. They just don't "identify" as gay.
So now Ted Haggard, after three weeks, is suddenly a rampaging heterosexual after having admitted that he "struggled" with this HIS ENTIRE LIFE. Wow! That must have been some amazing therapy if Rev. Ted can get "cured" of something that most professional exgays can't even get cured of.
As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in his blog, this is a symptom of the sickness of the fundamentalist religious mindset. It cannot face reality. And when reality rears its head, the fundamentalist goes into complete denial. It's the sort of thing that can lead to a complete mental breakdown if you are unable to free yourself from it.
By lying to himself, his wife, his family and the rest of the world, Mr. Haggard only makes himself and the whole Exodus cause look as foolish as they actually are.
Alan realizes this, of course. He's not a stupid man. I'll say this for him. In this transcript which I linked to, he acknowledges that many gay and lesbian persons have managed to reconcile their faith and their sexuality. Money quote:
CHAMBERS: Not at all. I think that there are plenty of gay people out there who are Christians, as well, but for me, homosexuality wasn’t compatible with my faith, and my faith was much more important than that.
Usually he tells everyone the exact opposite. He even said once that you couldn't even be a CELIBATE gay and be Christian, if you referred to yourself as "gay." Dr. Dobson isn't going to be very happy with that kind of talk. His political empire of gay hate rests on keeping these Exodus boys in line.
The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance seeks to defend equal marriage in this state by challenging the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling on Andersen v. King County. This decision, given in July 2006, declared that a “legitimate state interest” allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. Because of this “legitimate state interest,” it is permissible to bar same-sex couples from legal marriage.
The way we are challenging Andersen is unusual: using the initiative, we are working to put the Court’s ruling into law. We will do this through three initiatives. The first would make procreation a requirement for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or legal separation when there are children. The third would make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony.
Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstitutional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
At the end of the week, I had $3 left.
Then, this morning, I met with Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell who is informally gathering material for a new album. After a nice "hello and howdy" over tea and coffee, we settled in to work. Unlike Devin, who preferred to jump right in and try out the songs, Stokes wanted to just listen. It was quite intimidating, but I didn't let it keep me from plunging right ahead. In fact, it was quite an honor.
I would play him a song, he would say he loved it and then, excitedly, say, "Play me another!" And another and another. I think we sat there for two hours going through song after song. I also printed out some sheet music and gave him a CD with all my demos. It was really thrilling.
Nothing guaranteed. I know every songwriter in New York would die to have a song sung by him, so I have no idea if anything of mine will make the cut. But just the fact that he was really so very moved by so many of them, and so anxious to hear everything, it was a songwriter fantasy come true.
The thing about my songs, everyone keeps telling me, is that they are contemporary, but they still tell full stories that can be useful for solo cabaret performances, band gigs or theatrical settings. In L.A., this scene is non-existent, so it feels amazing to be here and to have great singers telling me how much they respect my work. In L.A., songwriters get about as much respect as a buggy whip salesman.
I like it. I like it a lot.
DENVER (AP) -- One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is ''completely heterosexual.''
Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition.
''He is completely heterosexual,'' Ralph said. ''That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing.''
Ralph said the board spoke with people close to Haggard while investigating his claim that his only extramarital sexual contact happened with Mike Jones. The board found no evidence to the contrary.
That's because straight guys always hire male prostitutes when they want to "act out." After all, female prostitutes are so difficult to come by.
READER MIKE ADDS: In other news, Michael Jackson announced he's completely white, Richard Simmons is convinced he's incredibly butch, and Britney Spears is convinced she's extremely intelligent.