Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I'm very proud to have served as Board Chair for the last few years. We decided early on that the Board would serve only as an adviser. The young people literally do all the work, all the organization, make all the decisions and take responsibility to serve the young people who look to them for help and guidance.
Youth Guard could not have existed before the Internet. Its founder, Jason Hungerford, created it out a need to serve isolated GLBT persons back when the Net was little more than AOL and unmoderated chatrooms. He knew young people needed a protected environment away from adult predators and homophobic hatemongers. But even more than that, he knew that the only way it would survive and continue to serve its purpose, he had to make it self-generating so that, when he "aged out," there would be another young person coming to take over. And another after that.
Bravo to YGS for its work. And if anyone reading this has a couple of extra bucks to throw their way, send 'em a tip. Every dime goes directly into the work. Use the donation page or donate by mail. Right now, a sponsor has offered to DOUBLE any donations received.
Youth Guardian Services
101 E. State St. # 299
Ithaca, NY 14850
If you're a teenager or in your young 20s and you would like to join the monitored email lists (monitored by other young people your own age), go to Youth Guard and sign up. Become a part of a solution.
But what troubles me about religion is that it assumes that it should be respected above the kinds of standards we impose upon every thing else in the world. Science is always viewed with suspicion, as if it's trying to pull something over on the world, while religion gets a free pass because we shouldn't say anything bad about stuff that's "holy." Frankly, I'm getting tired of this kind of fascistic thinking. I think we should apply the same standards of "truth" to everything, whether it's been deemed "holy" or not.
That may scare some people, but, frankly, I think some people need to get scared about stuff they have always assumed to be true. Sam Harris makes a compelling point about the clash between science and religion here:
As you know, there are an uncountable number of questions upon which religion once offered a faith-based answer, which have now been ceded to the care of science. Indeed, the process of scientific conquest and religious forfeiture is relentless, unidirectional, and highly predictable.
Relentless, unidirectional and highly predictable. Think about it. From Galileo forward, every single time religion and science had a disagreement, religion ended up being in the wrong. Why? Because religionists and clerics inculcate mythology into their dogma. Then, when science proves them wrong, they are left with no good choices. Either kill the scientist or give up their religion. They never seem to understand that there is a third way: To admit they were wrong. Both in their belief about that subject, and wrong to impose mythology into their dogma.
Some smart person begins to doubt received opinion-about the causes of illness, the movement of celestial bodies, the nature of sensory perception, etc.-he or she then observes the world more closely (often making shrewd use of technology and/or mathematics) and makes predictions that can be verified by others. What we see, time and again, is a general unwillingness for religious people to seriously interact with this discourse (and even an eagerness to subjugate or murder its perpetrators) whenever it challenges doctrines to which they are emotionally attached.
Exactly. They want to be perceived as "knowing all." They want to be seen as better than the rest of us because they have "studied" God. Their position of power is threatened by truth.
Eventually, however, the power that comes with actually understanding the world becomes too seductive to ignore, and even the clerics give in. In this way, real knowledge, being truly universal, erodes the basis for religious discord. Muslims and Christians cannot disagree about the causes of cholera, for instance, because whatever their holy books might say about infectious disease, a genuine understanding of cholera has arrived from another quarter. Epidemiology trumps religion (or it should), especially when people are watching their children die. This is where our hope for a truly nonsectarian future lies: when things matter, people tend to want to understand what is actually going on in the world. Science (and rational discourse generally) delivers this understanding and offers a very frank appraisal of its current limitations; Religion fails on both counts.
AN EXGAY SITE THAT DOESN'T PUMP YOU FOR MONEY?? I think not.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine found this brilliant video called "Evangelists need your money."
Some people think that skewering these hustlers, pimps and snake oil salesman through sarcasm and satire is "disrespectful" to religion. But, I say that there's no reason religion should be getting special treatment in this world right now. The world is being torn apart by religion. The shysters and con artists in every religious community, whether they're trying to convince gay people to go straight or that by blowing themselves up they'll suddenly get special rewards in some mythical afterlife, NEED to be exposed for the liars they are.
Only the truth will set us free. And do it with a smile.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Ever see an original musical comedy in which the on-stage actors were playing themselves? Could The Big Voice: God or Merman? be the beginning of a new genre? Unlike Elaine Stritch’s At Liberty or Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, the songs here are all new and written specifically for this show. Subtitled “a musical comedy in two lives,” The Big Voice presents playwright Jim Brochu and composer/lyricist Steve Schalchlin, previously represented Off Broadway with The Last Session, telling their own story of two boys who grew up at opposite ends of the country believing they had religious vocations until they accidentally stumbled on show business, and later became collaborators and life-partners after they met on a cruise in the Bermuda Triangle.
Previously seen in Los Angeles and in the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival, The Big Voice is a wise, poignant and entertaining musical comedy now appearing at a new venue, the Actors Temple Theatre. Brochu and Schalchlin are a study in opposites: Brochu, a big fellow, is expansive and theatrical; Schalchlin is tall and thin with a wry sense of humor.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I got this lovely note in my email last night:
Dear Steve, I wanted to let you know that I am premiering WHEN YOU CARE on Australian Radio on Sunday evening in our show - Broadway at Bedtime (9-11pm AET).
Steve – I hope you can listen to it or record it. I would love to do an interview with you too. Drop me a line via email and check out what the show is all about at the website – www.broadwayatbedtime.com Join up for the mailing list while you are there if you like.
If you are listening, you can shoot me an email while the show is going to air and we will most certainly acknowledge that you are there.
WHEN YOU CARE is one of those songs that leaves one changed, deeply.
Hope to hear from you,
Friday, January 26, 2007
Afterwards, we went out to dinner with a group, one of whom was a TV producer with a major network. She was exorbitant in her praise and was trying to help us look for an "angle" that a network might latch onto as a story. (For those who don't know, not to sound cynical, but most TV news organizations either look for "faces" -- someone famous who will hold the screen, or some newsworthy "angle" as a reason to run a story, meaning it's not enough to go to the news producer and say, "You should do a story on these guys because they're good.")
She also said to me, "Can you hear the people crying in the audience?"
I said, "No. The lights are bright in my eyes and I can't really hear much except silence."
"There were lots of tears around me. You really move people with this show."
She also said how much she loved the lyrics to the songs. Then we talked about the diary. I told her how I was one of the first online diaries/blogs, how much of a profound effect it has had on the lives of many people, about The Last Session, etc.
It was a great night. My feeling is that the more we just stay up and running, the more the show will continue to find its audience and attract people who will get involved.
For the rumor mill: A major Broadway producer with a hit show on Broadway right now is talking to us right now about a 10th anniversary production of "The Last Session" involving some very big names. Can't say much about it yet because it's all talk, but it feels, at last, like it could really happen. Perhaps as a one night fundraiser. And then, after that? Who knows? So, keep your fingers crossed. I don't want to jinx it, but the energy is high for this.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
He led support groups, was constantly on the phone with people who needed help, was at countless bedsides as friends died, and he watched as countless others came to take their places in those groups and then watched again as they began fading away into walking skeletons. His life, for a time, was one memorial service after another.
But still, he persisted. He fought for life and fought for life and fought for life. Over and over again until, at long last, in January of 2000, his poor, defeated body just couldn't take it anymore. You can go here to read all the details as Gail, his beloved caregiver, stood by him through the worst of it all. But, I should warn you, it's tough reading.
At the end, he was in an endstage coma in his apartment. We had been out of town, so that's how Jim and I saw him when we finally got back. Then, a little miracle happened.
A couple of times he opened his eyes but they were focused on the ceiling. I had the feeling that he was hearing us but he couldn't really acknowledge it in any conscious way.
Jimmy took my place and began talking to him, reminding him of the piano he bought for me to practice on. Then he told Dickie I was going to go play
music for him. I went into the living room and immediately played "Save Me A Seat." I also played "Lazarus" and "When You Care," I think.
Jimmy told me that when the music started Dickie kind of rolled over and opened his eyes. "He was practically dancing!" Jimmy said.
The music! The music had gotten through! He was struggling to come back! And a little miracle happened:
Then this morning, Gail said she and Bob were in the room when suddenly Dickie spoke, "I want a popsicle."
This from a man who's been in a death coma for a week. They ran into the kitchen and got him a popsicle. He's now eaten about 10 of them. I just went over there to see it for myself, joyfully wishing and hoping all the way. I went in and made some joke about my new glasses, "Hey!" I said. "Like my new glasses? Aren't I cute?"
He said, "I wouldn't say cute."
He was MAKING JOKES!!!! We don't know what to think. Is that little son of a bitch actually gonna come out of this??? He can't really carry on a conversation. His voice is very weak and I couldn't really understand it when he tried to speak but he's awake and alive and I got to feed him two popsicles while I was there.
I also played the piano while Gail stood behind me holding me and crying. It was glorious.
I was so hopeful! Was he really going to live? What I remember most was kissing his feet and telling him how beautiful he was. But it wasn't to be. Shortly after that, he went back into his coma and then died peacefully. It's hard to say how important Dickie was to me. During the time Jim and I were separated, it was really Dickie who convinced me that I needed to get Jim back into my life. He saw how much I loved and needed him even though I was being stubborn.
I miss you, still, my friend. Every. Single. Day.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I learned this recently when I was alerted to a MySpace blog entry by Denver Post "chronicler" and critic, John Moore. John held a trivia contest using a photo of the Denver cast of TLS. Then, out of the woodwork, came two beautiful posts from two of the castmates, the utterly adorable Step Pearce and the luscious Carla Kaiser.
When I read their posts, I was left in tears. It's the kind of thing one dreams of as a writer, that their work can have a real life positive effect on someone's life. This one, first from Carla:
Ohhhh My GOD!!! John I cannot believe you posted this photo! WOW -- the memories! I must, MUST say that this show was the best experience of my life. Personally, I had just divorced from my husband, who believe it or not, "came out of the closet" about a year and a half before this production. Coincidently, the character I played in "The Last Session" 'Vicki' was married to 'Gideon' who also "came out of the closet" during their marriage ... therefore, it was a show that really helped me and so many others heal from a common and devastating reality. Many lovely people from varying ages and experiences came to our production. And many of them attended several times. Also, many of them were gays and lesbians that came to our show with their parents and/or families in an effort to help them better understand what they were going through.
I cannot tell you how many nights the cast would sit and speak with audience members until all hours of the night about this misunderstood time in their life. IT WAS INCREDIBLE and forever changed my life. SUCH A BLESSING!!! In fact, "The Last Session" fans held a convention in Denver during the run of our show which included the attendance of the writer/composer of the show Steve Schalchlin. Not only did he come to the show but performed in a special one night performance of "The Last Session", as Gideon. The entire experience was magical and one I could have live and loved forever. Without John Mandes and the incredible cast and crew of this production this experience would never have been possible. I am forever grateful! Thank you again and again for posting this very special photo!
Always, Carla Kaiser Kotrc
I had no idea the cast held all these talkbacks to audiences, helping them and counseling with them. How different this is from just doing a show then going home to watch TV and eat. I just really had no idea. And as beautiful as Carla's story was, it was Step Pearce's entry that really got to me.
The Last Session was an amazing experience. It was my first serious musical. I stood among these power-house voices shaking in my weejuns, but the cast, the director, and Jeff, the MD, pushed me, taught me and made me feel "in my element."Yes, it is my personal experience that "Real" Christians can be the most loving people if they are given permission to love. Unfortunately, they are usually told something different. They are too often told to shun their gay kids, to throw them out into the streets, to practice "tough love," to toss them into ex-gay concentration camps and to fight like hell to prevent gay people from having equal rights in the public sector.
The Last Session was life changing for everyone involved; that's not an exaggeration. In at least one case, it was literally life-saving.
The emotional response from the audience was palpable every night. The struggle and the journeys are universally resonant. Audiences were often unable to leave the theater; impromptu talk-backs and sharing sessions cropped up in the wake of the performance.
That process was (and is) intensely personal to each of us. Breakdowns were common in rehearsal - never temperamental fits, but honest emotional eruptions - and the sincere, loving support of this incredible team ministered to deep wounds. We were led by John Mandes, himself a cancer survivor. He fostered this incredible atmosphere of openness and affection, and all of the emotional baggage that we released along the way enriched our performances.
I had tested HIV + relatively recently. This was the first group I could openly, seriously share with. Gideon's desire to take his own life before the disease did directly mirrored my feelings. I felt owned by the virus, and I was doing my darndest to alienate everyone who cared about me. Faced with the specter of ugly death, it's tempting to shut people out of your life. It feels altruistic; the less people love you, the less they'll suffer with you, the less they'll mourn you. His friends' aggressive insistence that they would rather be at his side, shredding their hearts as he struggles for breath than lose even one day with him had profound impact. The Last Session helped me reclaim a sense of self worth when I had come to think of myself as The Worthless AIDS Faggot.
I had also recently informed my Born-Again Christian parents of my HIV status. My Dad drove out to see this show (the one and only show of mine either of my folks have seen since college) tuning in to Rush Limbaugh the whole trip. My character, Buddy, was a Born Again Christian singer who had wormed his way into this recording session to meet Gideon, a hero of his from the radio. Buddy's initial judgment of Gideon's life and "God's punishment" of AIDS is a primary conflict of the show. Buddy's not a caricature or a villain, though. His eventual turn-around and even his early admonishments are from a place of love.
Steve Schalchlin's insight is that Real Christians are the most loving folk around. All they need is permission to move past prejudice into acceptance. After seeing the show, my Dad choked back tears to say, "It must have been very hard for you to say those judgmental things. I hope you know we don't think of you that way." I didn't know that. The last time we'd discussed my life, I was told I was posessed by a demon, but through prayer, God would show me the light. My father knew next to nothing of gay folk or HIV... certainly nothing positive, but The Last Session touched him and gave us a new way to communicate.
It's an immeasurably powerful and important piece.
The "Christianists," as Andrew Sullivan calls them, have taken hold of American Christianity and refuse to let go. Their agenda of intolerance and hate have betrayed their own people and their own congregations. I'm humbled and awed that The Last Session became a healing for families struggling with this issue. I'm even more proud that Step, Carla and the rest of the cast were able to use TLS and its message of inclusion and tolerance to heal their own hearts and families.
Thank you, Carla and Step, for allowing me to reprint your entries. I love you guys with all my heart.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Plush, commodious folding seats -- far more comfy than those in many a Broadway house -- handle 199 spectators.
A new two-man musical, "The Big Voice: God or Merman?," is a fitting inaugural show for Actors Temple Theater since it concerns spirituality and people in the entertainment industry.
Neatly written and performed by entertainers Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin, this easygoing yet surprisingly heartfelt musical autobiography details their personal and professional journeys.
Growing up in Brooklyn, the effusive Brochu dreamed of becoming the pope before realizing he was simply attracted to the robes and rituals. Raised a Baptist, the restrained Schalchlin couldn't wait to quit the Deep South for a career with a lounge act. As one of his songs notes: "Country boys don't care for queers/At least until they've had some beers."
The men finally met aboard a cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle and began to make beautiful music together. The smooth and the rocky parts of their 22-year relationship are recounted warmly. They're nice guys who share a droll slant on life and it's a sweet little show.
Thanks to Amy for helping us out. But I never want to do THAT again.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Now, wait, you're saying to yourself. Steve, the tenor, having his songs sung by a bass? Sounds crazy, no?
He's a veteran of numerous Broadway musicals (including the upcoming "110 In The Shade") and, when I was discussing Devin with Mark Janas the other night, we marveled at the fact that Devin's voice actually gets deeper and richer the lower he sings. (Try singing really low and listen to your own voice get smaller and thinner).
The one song he really knocks out of the ballpark is "Beyond The Light." It's absolutely incredible -- but he also sounds fantastic on "Cool By Default," "I Want To Make Music," and "Near You." We have spent most of our time just finding the exact right keys and finding ways to exploit his natural vocal gift. (I promise. When I meet with him again on Monday, I'll turn on the damn camera). Right now, he's putting together a new stage act called "My Own Voice: An Evening With Devin Richards." He blogs about it on his MySpace site.
If you're in New York or planning to be, on June 4th, he'll be at the Metropolitan Room. Do not miss him. I feel so honored that he's going to be singing a song or two of mine.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Jan. 18, 2007 — Statement of apology from Isaiah Washington regarding his recent remarks and actions at the Golden Globe awards:
"I apologize to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance. By repeating the word Monday night, I marred what should have been a perfect night for everyone who works on "Grey's Anatomy." I can neither defend nor explain my behavior. I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I've asked for help.
I know the power of words, especially those that demean. I realize that by using one filled with disrespect, I have hurt more than T.R. and my colleagues. With one word, I've hurt everyone who has struggled for the respect so many of us take for granted. I welcome the chance to meet with leaders of the gay and lesbian community to apologize in person and to talk about what I can do to heal the wounds I've opened.
T.R.'s courage throughout this entire episode speaks to his tremendous character. I hold his talent, and T.R. as a person, in high esteem. I know a mere apology will not end this, and I intend to let my future actions prove my sincerity."
What I find interesting is how much this statement, "I can neither defend nor explain my behavior. I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I've asked for help," sounds exactly like what Michael Richards said after his N-word outburst.
I wonder if they have the same publicist?
Thursday, January 18, 2007
On January 24, 2007, Will Clark's PORNO BINGO, the popular weekly fund-raising event for the LGBT community, held at the 9th Ave. Bistro (693 9th Ave. b/w 47 and 48 St) from 9 - 11 PM, will raise money for a Memorial Service and other final expenses for Morgan Rice, who died in December 2006.
Morgan was a long-standing member of the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, an AIDS activist, director of special events at Gay Men's Health Crisis in the 90's, and a huge friend of the Imperial Court of NY and the NYC theater community.
Special guest number-callers will include: Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin from the off-Broadway sensation THE BIG VOICE; Brandon Aguilar, and Ms. Trai La Trash, Empress XVIII of the Imperial Court of NY. The 2007 NYCGMC Chorus Queen Brenda Bond and Chorus Butch Sir Brian McComak will also be in attendance to ensure that a Royally good time is had by all.
Bingo prizes will include the usual assortment of erotic items (DVDs, magazines, etc. from Specialty Publications) as well as special raffles to win tickets to THE BIG VOICE and assorted ‘leather and lace’ items from the estate of Morgan Rice and his alter-ego HRM Barbie Stiletto, who reigned as NYCGMC Chorus Queen in 1990.
Please join us for a very special night of fun and laughter celebrating not only the memory of a dear friend but also the reaffirmation of our own relationships and friendships within NYCGMC and the larger LGBT theater and performance community. Drink specials will be available all night, including a brand new creation, in honor of Morgan, called the Stiletto: this drink may be very pretty, but looks can be deceiving, and if not handled with the proper respect, it will knock you right into the gutter!
Whether it’s your first time to Bingo or you are a regular patron, please join us for this truly unique night, where you can also meet our special guests in person and obtain more info about these upcoming events:
The New York City Gay Men's Chorus presents "Classically NYCGMC" on March 12 and 13 at Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W 67 St (http://www.nycgmc.org/)
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
99 years ago last night, Ethel Merman was born. We had a special celebration for the Merm by holding a "Dress Up Like Ethel" contest complete with some wonderful prizes and a celebrity panel of people who knew Ethel telling stories. (And yes, I was there with my video camera which I will edit together soon).
Donald Saddler & Marge Champion.
Steve takes video!
Jim Brochu moderates the panel.
Jim, Donald, Marge and Stephen Cole.
Legend Billy Goldenberg tells a great story about playing for Merman. The conductor demanded that he follow him. But Merman had her own pace. Billy followed Merman. After the show, the conductor told Billy he was fired. Merman overheard it and said, "Wrong! The pianist stays! YOU'RE fired!"
Contestant Lisa Berman who performs on Long Island "Berman as Merman" (winner).
Ruthe McKeown (3rd place).
Clover Honey (2nd place).
Her Highness the Empress Gefil Tefish of the Imperial Court.
Christine Pedi from Forbidden Broadway joined us for "Happy Birthday."
Jim, Marge, Donald, Steve.
Jim & Steve cut the birthday cake.
Our next event will be Valentine's Day: A mass same sex marriage ceremony. Want to be one of our couples? Write me and let me know! You're in!
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Have I mentioned Alexandra Billings is the best?
Monday, January 15, 2007
"When the story first came out," Mike Jones (the man who outed Rev. Ted Haggard and thus kept the Republicans off balance and the press focused on the self-righteous hypocrisy of the Bush administration -- Haggard being a Bush supporter and constant consultant) told me over dinner as he casually and affectionately held my hands in his, "the only thing the press was interested in were the dirty details of sex. And the headlines blazed PROSTITUTE! PROSTITUTE! PROSTITUTE!"
"They weren't interested in what an escort's life really consists of. All they wanted were lurid details."
I understood. I told him how, long ago when I first was in New York, I played piano in a high class hustler bar on the Upper East Side. Because I was the constant in the club, I became great friends with many of the "boys" working the place. Most of them were genuinely lovely persons, and I learned a completely different side of the world's oldest profession from what our Puritanical society wants to believe as society denounces them while hanging onto, and begging for, every last sensuous detail.
What most of their clients are really looking for, especially in a midwest city is intimacy and someone to really be themselves with. Mike told me of a married closeted soldier with a rare form of Leukemia who sat with him one night after learning that one of his fellow sufferers from a Leukemia support board suddenly "disappeared." And how painful it was when that soldier himself suddenly stopped calling.
"I never let myself get emotionally involved with any clients, but still, I knew how much they needed the human contact I could provide."
I saw his sense of compassion in two ways Sunday night. First, there was a tall guy with a beautiful smile sitting alone in the front row. Mike saw him at intermission standing my himself, so he walked up to him asking him who he was, found out he was visiting from Chile, and invited him to dinner with us all. Just like that.
Then, afterwards, we were all walking from the theatre to the restaurant (Joe Allen's) when Mike noticed that one of our party, an older fellow who is all but blind, was falling behind. (I didn't know he was part of our group.) So Mike left everyone else and ran behind to join him and walk with him. It's not that anyone else wouldn't have done that, but he went out of his way to NOTICE and to make sure everyone was taken care of.
As we ate dinner, he made sure everyone got a chance to speak, he was gently affectionate with everyone in our party, and he just made everyone feel special. That takes a lot of effort and it's something that really has to come from within. I could tell he wasn't "working" the room. He just has this genuine caring attitude. It's no wonder a Ted Haggard or a lonely soldier would be drawn to him time after time.
When he outed Rev. Haggard, it was because Ted was one of the leading evangelical ministers in Colorado fighting against gay marriage. It's one thing to be forced or feel forced into a closeted lifestyle, but it's quite another to then turn around, after getting your yaya's off with an escort, to then stab your fellow gay people in the back by fighting to keep THEM from getting married.
Mike, outraged at this double standard, called a reporter and did the whole thing on his own. He had no support. No big gay group supporting him. In fact, him being what he is, there were all kinds of people skeptical of his motivations.
It was a personal decision to out Rev. Ted and it caused a huge disruption in his life, the police were on him, he was in danger of losing his home, his income dropped to zero and he had a target on this back. The gay establishment also was uninterested in helping him. After all, he was a "just" a prostitute, a whore to be shunned. For instance, one day, after it all happened, he was feeling kind of blue and lonely, so he left his apartment and decided to just go to a gay bar for a little companionship, to be among "his own people" and chill...
That's when Joe.My.God., a popular gay blogger went looking for him, wrote him, found out his situation and then created a blogger groundswell of support for his readers (and mine after I posted a link to Joe's entry) to send some financial help to Mike.
"You know, you saved me," he said to me while holding my hands, his eyes beginning to glisten with tears. "I can't tell you what it meant to me."
I protested. "No, darlin', it was Joe. All I did was agree with him," I responded. "You saved us. You are a hero to more people than you think. You are the one who put yourself on the line for us all."
Mike is no longer an escort. He now has to find a way to support himself. He managed to get a book deal with a small publisher so now he's finally on the road to recovery. I told him I was proud that he came to see our show, and even more proud to call him friend.
Some have already asked me why I'd "associate" with a "whore." Well, my sweet reader, the real whores, IMO, are the phony-assed preachers, Exodus "converts" and anti-gay zealots whose entire livelihoods depend upon turning the world against us. Give me a Mike Jones over a self-righteous "Christian" of that ilk any day of the week.
Mike Jones is more than just a friend to me. He's my hero.
EDIT: Joe also writes about his meeting with Mike last night and notes that the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is honoring him. At last!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
The rooms are filled with people who are asleep, jaws hanging open, perhaps snoring. In one room a helium balloon floated limply, halfway to the ceiling, slowly losing its hold on life, like the body lying in the bed next to it.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
I contrast this situation to my work with Youth Guardian Services where we adults on the Board are not even allowed to see the names of youth participants, much less have any contact with them. We put up a strict firewall between youth and adults so that each age group is counseled solely by people of their own age group. Apparently, Exodus has no guidelines for working with youth and seems to not care about having any.
She also does serious charity work, she promotes Broadway and theater on national television (where it is usually invisible) and she just makes me laugh.
The View is now "must-see tv" thanks to her. Rosie, I'd love for you to come see our show. I know everyone in the world wants you, but I just want you to know that whether you make it or not, you have a HUGE FAN right HERE. Thank you for being your totally bad self and making TV fun again.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Raw Story, a press from Princeton University indicates there might be a potential "off switch" for HIV.
Princeton scientists Leor Weinberger and Thomas Shenk hope their work will illuminate the processes by which human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other viruses transition into dormant phases in their hosts. The researchers have discovered a specific genetic trigger that makes HIV fall into its latent phase, where the virus essentially hibernates, relatively harmlessly, but awaiting an opportunity to re-emerge and wreak havoc.
Weinberger and Shenk studied how an HIV protein, called Tat, plays a major part in initiating and also interrupting the cascade of chemical reactions that leads to full-blown infection. Based on their work and previous studies by others, they have proposed that the Tat protein and the enzymes that modify it serve as a "resistor," a component of an electrical circuit that reduces the flow of current.
"The resistor paradigm is a helpful way to think about how HIV enters and exits latency, and it might serve as a useful model for latent infections by other viruses, as well," said Shenk, Princeton's James A. Elkins Jr. Professor in the Life Sciences in the Department of Molecular Biology. "Understanding how to activate the Tat resistor to interrupt the reactions leading to viral infection could one day have repercussions in both the lab and the clinic."
So, last night, I found a key to a song that has been troubling me from day one. It was precipitated by the fact that Mike Jones, the man who outed Ted Haggard (the closeted anti-gay evangelical minister who was seeing male hustlers while denouncing gay marriage) in the last election, is coming to see the show on Sunday night. Mike and I have been emailing back and forth. (Really sweet guy.)
I told him that I really appreciated what he did, putting his reputation and livelihood on the line to fight the good fight, and that, if things had turned out differently, *I* could have been Ted Haggard -- married, gay, looking for sex on the side, preaching from a pulpit.
In Big Voice, at the end of the play, we describe a scene with an anti-gay protester. Then, after a bit of a comical confrontation, I sing "Sower and Scarecrow." For some reason, getting into that song has been troubling me from Day One. I've always believed in the song, and believe very strongly in its message. But the transition into it always felt awkward, like something was missing.
Then, a couple of nights ago, after my email exchange with Mike, it hit me right between the eyes. A line a dialogue. Just a few words. I didn't say them at the time because I wanted to consult with Jim first. The next day, I told him what I wanted to say and he said, "Try it."
So, I got to that point, where I look over at "my old roommate" standing there holding a protest sign -- "Lesbians Are Satan's Whores" -- and I said, "I suddenly realized, that could have been me..."
Boom. All this emotion of sadness (for him), relief (for me) and just plain realization came welling up from within and suddenly it was a brand new song. I sang it differently. I played it differently. I felt it differently. And, for the first time, I really felt the audience totally connect. It was no longer a sermon delivered to someone "out there," but an illumination of what could have been. (I think it also helped move the audience, too, because we got two curtain calls last night).
Later, after the show, we were out with friends, and I told Amy, "I wonder if being gay is what saved me from that life?" If I hadn't been given this gift of my own sexual orientation, I might have been some variation on that guy. Maybe not with the signs, but who knows?
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Today, we're featured on the front page of Backstage.com in an article called "Musical Serendipity" by Gerard Raymond. We did this interview at Sardi's and I'll show a little bit of it in my next video blog, which is almost ready.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
EDIT: Gabi notes in the comments that I said above, "Eight shows a day." Of course I meant eight shows a week. See how tired I was last night?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
GOD OR MERMAN?
celebrates Ethel Merman's 99th Birthday at The Actors Temple Theater on January 16th in style!
Come dressed as Ethel Merman for free admission to the show or bring a "Merm-mento" for $19.08 admission
(the year she was born)
Costume competition judged by the legendary
Marge Champion and Donald Saddler
Mermaniacs unite, and smile baby! In honor of Ethel Merman's 99th birthday on January 16th, the off-broadway hit musical THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman? wants to make the evening truly special.
Audience members are invited to dress up like Ethel Merman for free admission to the show that evening at 8pm. After the performance, there will be a "Merman-off" costume parade hosted and judged by the legendary Marge Champion and Donald Saddler. Marge directed Ethel as Dolly when she went into the show and Donald Saddler directed Ethel many times including her famous show with Mary Martin. The costume parade will conclude with a cake and ice cream celebration at the theater.
For those less daring, simply bring a "Merm-mento" to the show that evening, and receive admission for $19.08 (the year that The Merm was born). A "Merm-mento" can be a picture, a CD, or anything related to the great star.
Written by and starring Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin (The Last Session), THE BIG VOICE hilariously proves that showbiz is as much a calling as the priesthood. This high energy, razzle-dazzle show chronicles the lives of a Baptist from Arkansas and a Catholic from Brooklyn who find eternal salvation in the temple of musical theatre.
The New York Times raves "THE BIG VOICE is a hilarious and utterly rewarding evening of musical theatre" and Variety cheers "funny, touching and warmly endearing." The New York Daily News applauds "A funny, tender and thoroughly entertaining two-man show. 'The Big Voice' captivates with its big heart. Anyone who loves musical theatre should see this show."
THE BIG VOICE traces Jim and Steve's meeting aboard a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, Steve's struggle with AIDS, the production of their hit off-broadway musical The Last Session, their separation and their reconciliation. It's a comedy about a "gay marriage" between two men created by the couple themselves.
THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman? currently plays Tuesday @ 8pm, Wednesday @ 3pm & 8pm, Thursday @ 8pm, Saturday @ 3pm & 8pm, and Sunday @ 3pm & 7pm at The Actors Temple Theater (339 W. 47th Street) . Tickets can be purchased by calling Telecharge (212) 239-6200 or going to www.Telecharge.com. For more information, please visit: www.TheBigVoice.com
For those who are interested in dressing up/impersonating Ethel Merman at THE BIG VOICE on January 16th, please register by email to: TBVEvent@gmail.com or just show up. "Who could ask for anything more??"
Not the most exciting diary entry in the world. I know.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
As I've stated many times, I think that people who live against their religious beliefs harm themselves and the people around them. If they honestly believe that being gay is "wrong," then they should either find a support group and live celibately or change religions. I studied anti-gay theology and find it to be antiquated, wrong and ridiculously misogynistic and homophobic, trapped in a first century mindset. I freed myself from this self-hating theology.
But for those who are still trapped in that theology, the worst thing they can do is get married to an opposite sex partner and then start screwing around on the side like a Ted Haggard or Michael Johnston (one of the so-called exgay ministers who was preaching against us by day and attending sex parties by night). They are a danger because closeted people rarely use protection. They are in too much denial to take precautions since they try to pretend they're not gay.
As Michael Bussee, one of the founders of Exodus says in the comments section of the above link:
Sad but true that EXODUS has lost its way. I lay the blame squarely at Alan Chamber's feet. Political action was never the intent of EXODUS. Our ONLY concerns were: (1)bringing the message of salvation to gay people and(2)helping the church to be more loving in its treatment of LGBT folks.Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas sold out Exodus to the political right wing. They are more interested in becoming famous and having careers in the right wing political sphere than they are in fulfilling what, to me, was a questionable mission to begin with.
True,we (wrongly) believed at the time that our homosexual orientation would be changed from gay to straight if we followed Christ. But that's IT. We made special efforts to stay OUT of political arguments and refused to back political measures or candidates.
We repeatedly and strongly said NO to requests from Anita Bryant, John Briggs, Lou Sheldon and the like. We would not lend our testimonies to legislative efforts to limit the rights of gays and lesbians. This is not the EXODUS that the founders of EXODUS had in mind. This is a mutation. A sell-out. The only thing in common is the name.
And why is this? Because there's no money in a ministry that doesn't work. That's why. People don't turn from gay to straight. Statistically, the number of actual conversions is about zero. They lie about their numbers. They lie about our culture and they lie to themselves about their own mission in life.
I guess that's one way to get a paycheck. If you can't get it by being honest and in ministry, then turn to to politics and suck up to the money tit of James Dobson. He can't run his gay-hating political machine without them. And they can't make a paycheck without him.
ExGay Watch is one of the best sites on the net. Bookmark them and read their posts. These religious types always try to fly under the radar. With the Light of Truth shining on them by sites like this, they cannot play their dirty games in private.
Friday, January 05, 2007
I just wanted to tell you both how much I enjoyed your show last night. I wasn't sure what to expect--two gay guys, Ethel Merman, Broadway--okay, at a minimum it would be a really good time. I was amazed by your talent and energy and how captivating you were working with so little on the stage. Pretty much just yourselves, your story and your music up there. During intermission, I didn't think things could get any better.
Then you totally blew me away in Act II. Thank you so much for baring your souls and sharing all the emotional aspects of Steve's illness. I don't have words to tell you how much that touched my heart. I am an ovarian cancer survivor currently in second remission and have gone through similar feelings with my husband (along with all the guilt that goes with anger and blame). You expressed it all so honestly and eloquently. I laughed through my tears. I especially loved your message about hope being the best medicine. It is so true!
I wish you both continued success and good health. I'm telling all my friends that they need to see your show.
Thanks again for sharing your story.
Vincent Sardi, Jr., whose parents created* the world famous Sardi's Restaurant, which we have talked about so many times, and which is featured so prominently in The Big Voice, has died at the age of 91. Last night, after the show, Jim, myself, Amy and L. Jay went to Sardi's to have a drink in his honor.
The Times obit is absolutely beautiful. I can't do better than to quote from it to describe what he meant to the Broadway community.
Mr. Sardi ran one of the world’s most famous restaurants, a Broadway institution as central to the life of the theater as actors, agents and critics. It was, the press agent Richard Maney once wrote, “the club, mess hall, lounge, post office, saloon and marketplace of the people of the theater.”And, as Jimmy tells in our show, it was the proudest day of his life when his (Jim's) caricature went up on the wall of Sardi's -- and when we were allowed to have our opening night party there.
Mr. Sardi understood theater people, loved them and was loved in return. He carried out-of-work actors, letting them run up a tab until their ship came in. (At one point, Sardi’s maintained 600 such accounts.)
He attended every show and made sure his headwaiters did the same, so that they could recognize even bit players and make a fuss over them. At times, he exercised what he called “a fine Italian hand,” seating a hungry actor near a producer with a suitable part to cast.
He commiserated with his patrons when a show failed, and rejoiced with them when the critics were kind. He distributed favors, theater tickets and food, rode on horseback with the local police, and acted as a spokesman, official and unofficial, for the theater district...
Sardi’s shone brightest on the opening night of a Broadway show, and in the 1960s, a show opened nearly every night. The ritual never varied. In a line that stretched down 44th Street, theatergoers, theater insiders and celebrity watchers clamored for a table, hoping against hope to be seated on the first floor, where they could see cast members, producers and the playwright of the moment entering the restaurant after the curtain rang down. As the actors made their way to their tables, the diners would stand and applaud.
Once seated, the actors, producers and playwright would put on a brave face waiting for the reviews. The first 25 copies of The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune were rushed over to Sardi’s from the printing presses at midnight, with the review pages marked. Mr. Sardi would man the telephone, taking calls from friends of the cast, ticket brokers and newspaper columnists eager to get a read on the fate of the new play. If the reviews were poor, a pall descended over the dining room, and diners would slink out the door. If the reviews were good, it was Champagne all around and a celebration until the wee hours.
“All of us on the staff were caught up in each Broadway play,” Mr. Sardi wrote in Playbill. “We became involved in the raising of money, the casting of roles, the progress of rehearsals, and, after opening night, the success or failure of a play.”
Max (R), who owns Sardi's now, began there as a dishwasher. And Vincent's grandson, Sean (C), continue to run Sardi's keeping the traditions alive. When we got there last night, they were gone and everyone was very sad to have lost this great man.
Vincent hasn't run Sardi's for a very long time, but his legacy and his love of actors continues -- there's an "actor's menu" with lower prices for members of Actor's Equtiy. May Sardi's ever reign over the Broadway. And may the Spirit and love of Vincent Sardi always remain over all the theatre district.
*This is a correction to my original post in which I stated that Vincent created the restaurant. Benny, a reader, corrected me in the comments. Thanks, Benny.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
(Up until now, most of the drugs have been unable to prevent this action. The protease inhibitor, for instance, blocks replication of the virus AFTER it has integrated itself into the nucleus.)
I'm asking all my readers to go over to the Bloggie Awards and submit Joe for Best LGBT Blog. I know many of you would nominate Bonus Round, but the fact is that my blog is less comprehensive and more personal. Joe really has a keen eye on the LGBT community, and his writing makes mine look like scribbles in a child's notebook. Seriously. Vote for Joe! I would be VERY grateful.
Recently got a note from my friend, Sarah Glaser's sister in North Carolina, Amy. Amy and friends have assembled a website full of resources for Gay Straight Alliances in North Carolina called iNSIDEout 180. I linked, once, to a story about a North Carolina high school whose students were prevented from forming a GSA. So, it's great that they are forming alliances with each other to fight bigotry and intolerance.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Rue McClanahan, Stiller & Meara, Donna McKechnie and Charlotte Rae went to see "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" This musical at the West 47th Actors Temple is drawing more celebs than an L.A. plastic surgeon.
Interspersed throughout are original numbers that demonstrate the duo's talent for sensitive and lyrically incisive songwriting.”
The gay publication, NEXT, gave us a rave review. It's not online, so I'll type it in here: "No lavishness needed at Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin's THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN?, a sweet little autobiographical show that will have religious dropouts and musical theater queens kvelling. Best known for their writing in THE LAST SESSION, Brochu and Schalchlin's BIG VOICE details their respective lives as a Cathlic from Brooklyn and a Baptist from Arkansas who find salvation in the theater--and each other--with a little help from Ethel Merman. It's heart is in the right place and both performers are easy to love."
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
"The headline was: 'The Prince of Rajpipla Declares That He's a Homosexual,' " Gohil said with a rueful chuckle. "The newspaper sold like hotcakes."
In the uproar that followed, disgusted residents in Gohil's hometown flung his photograph onto a bonfire.
His parents publicly disowned their only son, printing notices in the press that he was cut off as heir because of his involvement in "activities unacceptable to society." Gohil's mother has threatened contempt proceedings against anyone who refers to him as her son.
For scandal-mongers, the tale of India's gay prince is an irresistibly juicy affair full of details worthy of a tabloid tell-all: his teenage affair with a servant boy, a sexless marriage to a minor princess, a nervous breakdown.
For Gohil, his very public unmasking has brought him a bully pulpit from which to speak out against a law that makes him not just a pariah of noble birth but also a common criminal.
Here in the world's largest democracy, home to 1.1 billion people, sex between two people of the same gender remains a punishable offense. Decades after India threw off the yoke of British rule, the country still clings to a Victorian-era statute established by its colonial masters nearly 150 years ago, which demands up to life in prison for anyone committing "carnal intercourse against the order of nature."
In practice, few prosecutions are brought to court. But reports abound of police using the law to harass and blackmail gay men and lesbians.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Together, the couple has created a small and endearing musical about their relationship and their love of musical theatre, a kind of second honeymoon in song performed with an affecting mixture of sarcasm, mirth, and heart.
I like that. "A second honeymoon in song."
So, since I don't have my computer/camera situation straightened out yet, I thought I'd ring in the new year by celebrating their marriage and to reiterate how barbaric I think it is that so many people in this country can't get over themselves enough to allow gay people the same civil rights as straight people.
But, since our musical is about a big, gay marriage, maybe we can help break down some of those barriers and open peoples' eyes to the fact that we are just as worthy and deserve just as much fairness as (gasp!) heterosexuals. It's even more appalling to me that they do this discrimination in the name of whatever god they happen to be worshiping at the time (as if I'm supposed to follow the rules of their god). (And if you click on the link, there's even a video of the two of them, the first gay couple to get this kind of treatment from the Times -- Big Voice, by extension, breaks ground again.)
BUT, BE THAT AS IT MAY, we had a TERRIFIC new year's eve. Two wonderful shows on Sunday. Then we went to two separate parties. At both, of course, we were handing out flyers and meeting new people. I met K.T. Sullivan, who is a wonderful singer ("Sing my songs!") who does shows with my old bar singin' pal, Mark Nadler at Ted Seifman's party, where there was more food than anyone could eat.
Then, we were off to "Club 39," also known as Dickie Bell's. Unfortunately, I had left my video camera at Ted's, so I missed recording one of the great New Year's "shows" of all time where they saluted the year's dead show biz people with musical clues, and finished off with "sample songs from that new musical based on Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' called 'Grand Motel.'"
The streets of New York were JAM PACKED with people and it was impossible to even GET near Times Square unless you had some kind of ticket. In fact, you couldn't go from 9th Ave. to 8th Ave. unless you lived there or had a ticket, or had someone come get you who lived there. It was madness.
After the party was over, about 3:30am, we left "Club 39" (called that because it's Dickie's apartment on the 39th floor) it was raining cats and dogs. We had to bribe a cab driver to get us home. But it was worth it.
I wish all the Bonus Round readers a sensational new year. To say we feel blessed and lucky and happy is the biggest understatement of the century. I ring in a toast to Clifford and Peter and to all the gay couples out there who can't get to Canada to get married. I ring in a toast to all my single friends looking for love. May you find it this year -- just look in all the unexpected places.
And, of course, to Jimmy, my own partner. Let's keep doing this. Okay?
I walked into a protest! But who? I didn't know, so I followed them around until I found out. It's the "live" tour guides ...
When the history of "The Big Voice: God or Merman? is written, there will be one moment that will shine, for us, above all. And it happ...
Hal Block, the increasingly irritating panelist on "What's My Line?" was fired last night after the show. Well, back in 1953. ...
Charles Nelson Reilly with the Laguna Playhouse cast of The Last Session. R. to L.: Joel Traywick, Bob Stillman, Michele Mais, Charles Nels...