Tuesday, November 27, 2007
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. :)
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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
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.
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
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
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
[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
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
The Gypsy Rose Lee collection offers a mother lode of
material for pop culture historians, and is one of TOFT's
Librarian, Theatre on Film and Tape
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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
Review: 'Zero Hour' a fitting tribute to theatrical force of nature
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
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.
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
Jim 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
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.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
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
(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.)
Next year is also the 30th Anniversary of the chorus. They were the first gay chorus. From their site:
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.
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.
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