Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mark Evanier is Hilarious.

Mark Evanier is one of my favorite bloggers on the Net. First of all, he writes comic books. Second of all, he is a historian of voice over actors and always finds these great video nuggets of cartoons and commercials from the past, telling us who did all the voices. I love that.

But this morning, he linked to the Charles Nelson Reilly video below with this hysterical description:

On this blog, we've occasionally made mention of two friends — Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin. Jim and Steve live together and perform in musical theater and collaborated on a hit play about the relationship between two gay men who live together and perform in musical theater, and I don't want to leap to conclusions but I'm starting to get the faint suspicion that Jim and Steve might actually be gay. It's just a suspicion at this point.

Between them, Jim and Steve know every human being who has ever performed in a play or musical and shown the slightest bit of talent, They knew the late, already-missed Charles Nelson Reilly and back in 2000, when they went to dinner at his home, Steve took along his omnipresent video diary camera. Here's three minutes of that visit. It may give you a bit of an idea what C.N.R. was like. It might even cause you to suspect that he also was...well, never mind.

Bookmark his blog. You'll love it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Our Dinner with Charles Nelson Reilly.

In the previous blog entry about Charles Nelson Reilly, I mentioned a home video from 2000 where we had dinner over at his house. The comedy started from before we even got into the house. We fished around our shelves, teeming with old videos, and found it. It's very short, but there is Charles hamming it up for the camera every time I turned it on him.


"I've known Charles for 35 years. We've spoken for 10."

That's how Jim used to jokingly, but not altogether inaccurately, describe his relationship with Charles Nelson Reilly. When Charles loved you, you were the center of the universe. When he wasn't speaking to you, you just smiled quietly to yourself ("That's Charles for ya!") and waited for it to pass.

They met back when Charles was doing Dolly, and Jim was an oversized teenager in an undersized uniform selling the legendary orange drink at the back of the St. James Theatre. (We recently had lunch with Luke Yankee, Eileen Heckart's son. Luke used to have the same job.)

Withing five minutes of meeting Charles Nelson Reilly, I was brushing off the crumbs from his shirt and making terrible jokes to him and fussing over him like a long, lost uncle. I found him so hilarious. And smart. He was Lucy smart.

He would always ask me, "Now Steven..." (He always called me Steven, never Steve), "...how is your health?" And he would look really intently into my eyes to hear my answer. He would sometimes crack jokes and then look at me knowingly, as if the two of us were the only people in the room who would "get" that joke. I suspect he did this with everyone. But I also felt that it was sincere.

He never stopped telling me how much he loved The Last Session, our musical about a man with AIDS. He said to me one day, shortly after The Last Session transferred to the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Blvd., "Steven, do you know that I don't sit in theatres? I don't sit in theatres because I was there at the Hartford Circus Fire. I saw people burned to death right in front of my eyes when I was a young boy. Do you want to know how much I love The Last Session? I sit in your theatre."

And he did. He sat in that theatre, in a midst of an audience, at least a dozen times. Maybe more.

And he always brought the very coolest celebrities. Not fake celebrities, like reality show celebrities. Real celebrities.

He brought Julie Harris. He brought Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

Charles made me feel like Sondheim. I blame him for my relentless ego.

He loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner. He would wear a long nightgown, like a night shirt, as if he were on the set of Peter Pan, and he would cook a magnificent feast, frittering about like an old maid, so happy to be surrounded by people he loved, whoever was in his current extended family.

We have video of us pulling into his driveway. Suddenly, you hear, in a high German accent, "Go Avay! Da people moofed. Go avay! Ve don't vant you."

And you see this tall, gangly figure -- and he was tall. He was over six feet tall. -- poke his head out the door and you'd see the top of his head over the shrubbery as he walked toward the garage to get to you, two spikes of hair sticking up.

One time, Jim and Charles and I were gossiping over speaker phone when we heard a beep.

Jim said, "Charles, wait. Can we just see who this is?" Charles said, "Sure."

We hear a breathy singsong voice, "Rip TAYlor."

"Rippy, can you hold for just a moment?"

He put Rip on hold and looked at me and said, "We got the two biggest queens in Hollywood on hold at the same time!"

And, weirdly, both Charles and Rip were born on the exact same day.

The last time we saw him was in "Garden Ralph's" grocery store. We hadn't spoken in a very long time, having been pushed away again over some business misunderstanding -- he blamed Jim for something that Jim hadn't done. He said to me, "Steven... how is your health?"

I said, "It's great, Charles."

When Jim said, a bit tearfully, that we would love to hear from him, he said, "Oh, don't be so sentimental."

And he brusquely pushed off.

I was angry about how he was being such a snob to Jim. To be so unforgiving. I could't understand how you just stop talking to a friend. So I wouldn't let Jim play Match Game on TV. (Which is kinda like me doing the same thing to Charles that Charles was doing to Jim. There's a life lesson for "Steven" in there somewhere.)

But he was a handful. He was so frustrated. He felt his game show career had poisoned his ability to have a bigger career as an actor. And he was a brilliant actor who studied with Uta Hagen (who he also never spoke to). He taught acting lessons to some of the best actors of our generation.

He directed opera, Broadway shows and he was, finally, a playwright.

His final work, "Save It For The Stage: The Life of Reilly" was a hypnotic night of theatre. He would drive the producers crazy because you couldn't get him off the stage. He loved telling those stories so very much that his show would get longer and longer every night, sometimes going on for three hours or more. When they protested, he would say, "But it's all gold!"

The show went to New York, and it should have gone to Broadway, but somehow it all fell apart. I heard stories about what had gone wrong, but who can know. Theatre is a tricky thing.

Oddly, the very thing that frustrated him, his brilliance as a game show participant, is the greatest gift of all. For years, this most obviously gay man won the hearts of every person who ever watched that show. The reason that show doesn't exist now is because it was so perfectly cast in the first place, his kind of wit and urbane showmanship, where one week he would look like a college professor and the next week, he'd be wearing a perfectly fashionable pink or orange cowboy outfit, complete with hat --God LOVE the 70s! -- simply doesn't exist anymore.

Most of all, he made us laugh. He was so comfortable being himself, sitting up on that perch smoking a cigar and drinking. He's as much a TV comic cultural icon as Lucy or Jackie Gleason or Carol Burnett. He was a genius.

You gave me the great gift of your admiration and Charles, as frustrating as you could be, I loved you so very much. In fact, I've decided to let Jim start playing Match Game again on our TV. I look forward to seeing you again and again.

Wikipedia is using my photo of Charles Nelson Reilly

I just had an Internet "first time" -- the picture Wikipedia is using on their entry of Charles Nelson Reilly is a candid photograph I shot. It's from the original Bonus Round diary. It's not attributed.

EDIT: Wait. This means someone did a Google search of images of Charles, and out of everything they could find, mine was the one they liked the best.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Charles Nelson Reilly Has Died.

Charles Nelson Reilly with the Laguna Playhouse cast of The Last Session. R. to L.: Joel Traywick, Bob Stillman, Michele Mais, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard.

The insanely great character actor, Broadway star, TV star, opera director, theatre director, playwright Charles Nelson Reilly has died.

He was a friend of ours. I'll write more once I've had a chance to collect my thoughts. Meanwhile, here are a few random shots from the Bonus Round Diary:

Charles Nelson Reilly with Chip Esten (who played "Buddy" in the original Zephyr workshop production of The Last Session) and producer/music publisher Ronda Espy.

The caption for this picture read: The great singer Karen Morrow, right, with Charles. Every time Charles sees a picture of himself he says, "I look so old." He said to me once, "I used to be young and beautiful." I said, "No, you weren't." Everyone loves him.

Yeah, they did. He wasn't always an easy guy. But, in the end, everyone loved him.

UPDATE: NY Times Obituary.
Mr. Reilly’s openly gay persona was many years ahead of its time on television, and it had its risks. He recalled being dismissed early in his career by a network executive, who told him that “they don’t let queers on television.” Paul Linke, who directed the one-man show, said Mr. Reilly later had the last laugh when he would page through TV Guide and count how many times he was on the air that week.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lennon Piano Video Diary Part #1

Although I posted a music video of the Lennon Piano visit to the Clayton's home in Olympia previously, I hadn't, until now, edited the actual video diary footage. Finally, today, after giving myself a little distance from it, began putting it together. Here is part one where we discuss first hearing the news that John Lennon's piano was being brought to Gabi and Alec's home.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Making Music!

While I was in Houston, I had access to a little studio upright piano to work on while Jimmy was doing "Zero Hour." So, each night, as he was on the stage, I was writing music for a stack of lyrics, most of which came from Amy Lynn, my protege. I don't expect every lyric to work. I don't expect every song to be a good one. But I do love the process, and given the fact that she is depending upon me to mentor her as a lyricist, I feel I owe it to both of us to at least try to put music to each of them. You usually learn more from failures than successes.

Since I got back here, I've been in my studio working to set each of these songs to some kind of musical arrangement. It's tedious work and I suppose I could try to tell you about it in some detail, but I don't exactly know what to say.

First I record the song "raw." Just my voice and piano, no set tempo. It usually sounds really crappy, but it gives me a starting point. Then, I start looking for a tempo and I lay down a basic piano track. If it's a slow song, then I'll lay down a temp vocal and start playing around with other instruments, trying to set an arrangement. This is the part I'm not really great at. I arrange out of necessity. And even when I finish something, I consider it to be temporary until a "real" arranger comes along.

This week, I got a call from a friend of mine who works down at MCC-LA. His name is Sebastian and I've admired his musicianship for a number of years. We met, I think, during the Soul Force March on Lynchburg. He was playing guitar and leading a lot of the singing. He always impressed me as being someone with a tender heart and gentle manner.

These days, he's been working in the little television and media center they have down at the church. He edits the programs and makes them available for broadcast over local cable and the Internet.

Apparently, during an early visit to MCC-LA, I played "My Thanksgiving Prayer," a song I wrote and have been developing for my Peace cantata. When Sebastian called me this week, he said it's one of his favorite songs to listen to and that he'd love to just meet with me and talk about doing more together. As he's put together the pieces of the church studio, he's been working on expanding it into a full recording facility. These days, one can do these things easily because of how easily available most software is. (For instance, I make my demos in what I refer to as my "studio," but it's really just a computer, a keyboard and a microphone).

I went over to the church and we had a great time together. I played some songs. He played some songs. We shared folders of songs. Ever since he got the final touches put on the recording studio, he's been looking for material to help arrange and produce.

Well, hello.

I gave him a ton of stuff and said, "Have at it, babe. Make it great."

Calling All Former "Ex-Gays"

As readers of this site know, I have a longstanding problem with the deceit that is being carried on by the "exgay" ministries. Statistically and realistically, "exgays" do not exist. That's not to say that there aren't some people, in their natural walk of life, haven't experienced fluidity in their orientation. But the idea that someone can physically force a change in their sexuality through religion is, simply, nonsense.

Several years ago, when a prominent psychologist, Dr. Spitzer, went looking for exgays to do a study, it took him over 2 years to find barely a handful, and almost all of them were being paid to be "exgay." And as we have learned from former "exgays," one of the techniques used by change ministries to get people to convert is to "claim" their exgay-ness before it actually happens.

It's all a big religious sham that would be completely invisible if it weren't being funded by men like Dr. James Dobson, who uses these ministries and their leaders in Washington to block gay rights. They're not satisfied with merely trying to "minister" to "people with unwanted same sex attraction." They are determined to undermine the interfere in the lives of healthy gay people to whom they have no connection.

So, today when I got this in my inbox, I wanted to share it. If you've ever been a part of an exgay ministry, we want your story. It's time to push back against these religious fascists and tell the truth of what they are doing. People have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on these snake oil salesmen and driven a great many of them to suicide.

TWO Urges All Former 'Ex-Gays' To Participate In The Campaign And Save Lives

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Truth Wins Out launched its "Talking Truth" Internet video campaign today, so Americans can finally learn from the victims of "ex-gay" ministries how these misleading groups are ineffective and ruin lives. The video testimonies paint an accurate portrait of "ex-gay" groups that teach client's denial, while offering false promises about changing from gay-to-straight. The Talking Truth campaign also gives hope to those who are still ensnared in the "ex-gay" trap and lets them know that they can remain both spiritual and openly gay.

"We hope our videos will save lives and make it more difficult for Exodus to seduce young people with its fictions and fabrications." said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. "In our campaign, people will hear directly from the victims and see that these programs simply don't work and can be a drain on time, money and self-esteem. We urge all former ex-gays to immediately contact Truth Wins Out and tell us your compelling story on video, so we can continue to rescue people harmed by 'ex-gay' programs."

For thirty years, Exodus International, an umbrella group for "ex-gay" ministries, has used fear tactics and propaganda to recruit victims. The organization usually relies on the testimonies of paid staff or political lobbyists to deceive Americans into believing the gay can be prayed away. The Talking Truth campaign will finally let people hear from the vast majority of clients - not those on a right wing group's payroll - who found that Exodus and other "ex-gay" organizations offer false hope.

"We are airing these stories on the Internet, because this is where most vulnerable gay people will search for information about homosexuality," said TWO Board member and Exodus victim, Rev. Jerry Stephenson, who appeared in a Talking Truth video.

In the first video - which is in the format of a public service announcement - Shawn O'Donnell, a victim of New Hope, an Exodus affiliate in California, warns those thinking of entering ex-gay programs that he wasted 10 years of his life and $45,000 trying to change. In a second video, O'Donnell discusses how members of his ex-gay group used to cruise the mall for men each Sunday, highlighting the ineffectiveness of Exodus.

In a third, similarly formatted video, Rev. Jerry Stephenson, formerly a Southern Baptist minister who now counsels "ex-gay" victims, urges others not to follow in his footsteps, by dedicating years of their life pursuing a cruel, mentally abusive hoax.

In a final video - edited in a longer format - Victoria Lavin discusses how she wasted thirty years trying to go from gay to straight. Her long journey included prayer, dating men, substance abuse and finally the realization while in recovery that she was fine, just the way she was.

Truth Wins Out will add new video testimonies to its collection throughout the year. This ongoing educational campaign will look at this issue from many different angles and allow victims to help expose the "ex-gay" myth, as the sham it truly is.

Additionally, Truth Wins Out urges all former ex-gays to attend a survivor's conference sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and SoulForce (June 29-July 1) at the University of California Irvine.

"This conference is a terrific opportunity to tell your story and meet other people who share similar experiences," said Besen, who plans on attending. "Truth Wins Out is excited about this historic gathering and thinks it will help get the truth out about the ex-gay myth, as well as assist people who are still recovering from their time in ex-gay programs."

Truth Wins OUT is a non-profit organization that counters right wing propaganda, exposes the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life. For more information, visit www.TruthWinsOut.org.

Lennon Piano Going To Virginia Tech

John Lennon's Iconic 'Imagine' Piano to Be Photographed in Blacksburg, VA

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 25 PRNewswire —

WHAT: The famous piano on which John Lennon composed "Imagine" in 1971 is being sent to Blacksburg, Virginia, location of the Virginia Tech tragedy by musician George MichaelKenny Goss owner of Goss Gallery in Dallas and will be photographed to help promote peace in an increasingly violent world. The piano will be placed in the private garden of Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Charles Litchfield. and his partner

"Kenny and George both believe by taking the piano to Blacksburg, they hope to honor those that lost their lives, those injured and those whose lives were impacted forever by this great tragedy," said director and producer Caroline True. "Their deepest wish is to imagine a world of peace, a world without violence."

Michael and Goss plan to have the piano photographed at significant locations in the United States and across the world where horrific acts of violence have taken place. The heartbeat of the project continues in creating the opportunity to take tragedy and turn it into victory, ultimately resulting in a more peaceful world. Michael and Goss want to further strengthen the project's peaceful message, by having "Imagine" performed on the piano at each stop.

To date, photos have been taken at Dealy Plaza, site of President Kennedy's assassination, the Memphis site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, location of all of Texas' executions, the Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C., site of the death of Abraham Lincoln, the former Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX, the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and Texarkana, AR, site of the "Phantom Killings," and West Memphis, AR, outside the courthouse where the West Memphis Three were convicted. A documentary and a book are under development with plans to donate proceeds to charity.

During the piano's stop in Olympia, WA at the home of Bill Clayton, a bi-sexual teen who committed suicide because of fear of hatred towards his sexuality, singer songwriter Steve Schalchlin played "Imagine", moving the crowd to tears.

"Being a part of this project is probably the greatest honor of my life," said Steve. "I felt honored by the sense of beauty and heartfelt community that we experienced that afternoon. The fact that we all brought forth the spirit of John Lennon, reminds us that a great man's work doesn't die just because he does."

To remember and honor the victims of the tragic events of April 16, the university has established the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to aid in the healing process. To donate, please visit http://www.vt.edu/fund/index.php or call 800-533-1144.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why It's Wrong to "Hate" Jerry Falwell

I have now fully repented of my hate of Jerry Falwell, and it took only one photograph to show my why I was wrong. Because then you turn into this:

Yes, that's hatemongering Jesus Lunatic Rev. Fred Phelps who is picketing Falwell's funeral. BTW, Phelps was there when I marched with the Soul Force group to confront Falwell. He was approached by Randy Thomas, the "exgay" minister with Exodus International. Randy tried to tell him about how he "used" to be gay, but Fred's response was something like, "Well, then, shut up about it!"

To learn more about how easily hate can become an addiction unto itself, read "Addicted To Hate".

Hat tip: Joe.My.God & Towleroad.

EDIT: In the comments to this blog, Michael said, I think Paul Monette said it best:
"Go without hate, but not without rage. Heal the world."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Video: Last Day in Houston

Thyroid Update

Next week, I start taking new pills to help my thyroid condition. If you'll recall, several years ago I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, which is why my eye went all googly, popping out of my head, causing me to have the eye surgery a couple years back.

In short, my body has been attacking my thyroid gland for the past several years and now the blood test reveal that I'm starting to need to help it out a little in order to maintain a healthy chemical balance. So, we're adding synthroid. In reading about it, the side effects range from hair loss to massive weight gain to nothing at all. So, we start with a little dose and watch the blood sugars and everything else until the body gets all settled in.

I have the drug now, but decided to wait a week so that I can coordinate ordering it with all my other meds. The list is getting so long, I feel like a chemistry experiment gone bad.

American I-Don't

So, last night we watched American Idol. Remember I submitted a song to American Idol? They wanted something that "symbolized" what the show was about, so I submitted "Song of Surrender" which may have nothing to do with what the show is about, but is a really well-constructed song with a soaring chorus. The one they chose was a totally dorky, cliche-ridden mess called "This Is My Now."

This is my now?

Good Lord. And people voted for this song. No, I'm not bitter. Not me. Nuh uh.

Anyway, I slept through most of the show. Then we rewound it to the last song so I could hear what beat out my tune. After about halfway through, I told Jim to forget it.

Why do I watch these things?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Musicals Guide for Straight Guys

This is a funny blog entry called "The Straight Guy's Guide To Musicals."


The Producers: This hit Broadway musical about a hit Broadway musical was made into a movie based on the musical based on the movie about a musical based on Hitler.

Evil Flamingos!

From Andrew Sullivan's blog:
A famous avian same-sex couple - together for six years in an English zoo - have now adopted an abandoned flamingo chick. They are engaging in what the Vatican calls an "intrinsic evil." How does the Vatican know caring for and rearing a chick that might otherwise perish is evil? Because natural law says so. Meanwhile, nature seems to be ignoring the voice of God, as interpreted by the Pope. Time to excommunicate Planet Earth? Your Holiness, standards are slipping.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Families United Against Hate

I recently accepted a position on the Board of Directors of Families United Against Hate, which provides "support, guidance and assistance to families and individuals dealing with incidents based on bias; and to the people, organizations and agencies who serve and support them."

Alexandra's Amazing Blog

If you aren't a steady reader of Alexandra Billings' blog, she has posted more of the hilarious, heartrending, extraordinary posts lately I've come to expect from her.

In Snot Nose Johnny, she recalls a schoolyard bully from her childhood and the mixed feelings she had for him and how he reminded her of Jerry Falwell. Like me, she also struggles with finding a way to forgive someone for the harm they've done.

In State Of Mind, she tells the story of how she tried to get a driver's license here in California that would, like in Illinois from where she recently moved, correctly identify her gender--with a surprising revelation at the end.

And finally, Sitting In His Place is a very touching story about a homeless man she encountered on a regular basis recently.

All That Chat (The Ballad of the Bitter Broadway Baby)

While I was on Houston, I was busy working on a ton of new songs. Since I've been home, I've been working overtime to record them so I can share them.

This is a comedy cabaret song for musical theater insiders. It's sung by a bitter Broadway performer who has gotten totally destroyed by the chatters on a chat board called "All That Chat."

(For the record, "All That Chat" is a real place, but even though it suffers the usual excesses of public chatboards, it frequently has some very informative threads, and many of the participants are quite accomplished).

Play the song.

If you can't play it with your browser, RIGHT CLICK on this link and save the mp3 to your hard drive. Then, you can play it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Coming Out Insurance!

The New Steve Store.

Those of you who read this blog by navigating to this page might have noticed that I have installed an MP3 store over on the right hand column. I put an assortment of the songs people have most requested for me to sing when I play out. But I've also been putting new MP3s of songs that have not made it onto CD. Most of them are demos of new songs I've been writing over the past several years, such as "Cool By Default," which is a MUST-HAVE, of course -- and I'll be adding more soon.

(If you use Internet Explorer to view this page, you will have to navigate over to my MySpace page to view the whole store.)

This is what the store looks like now:

My new songwriting partner, Amy Lynn, keeps giving me stacks of new lyrics every time I turn around, though they get Steve-ified once I get my claws into them. Collaboration is fun when you have such a good partner who will do what you tell them to do. :-) I make joke, of course, but there's a core of truth in there that I will talk about soon. Trouble is she's starting to get better at it than I am. Keeping up with Amy is gonna be my new challenge.

Notice also, in the store there is a virtual album called the "Bill Clayton Souvenir CD." At the Lennon Piano PEACE Tour event for Bill Clayton, I burned a bunch of CDs and handed them out to everyone as a souvenir. I received emails from people asking what I put on that CD and whether they could get one. Well, now you can. It's 10 songs for $8.99, a bargain! Longtime fans will probably have most, or some, of these cuts, so there's an option to get them individually.

The song of note on this CD is "Holy Dirt," which is now presented to you for the first time in MP3 form, though I made a video of it awhile ago. If you missed that, it's here:

The songs in this store are DRM-FREE. That is, NO copy protection. Once you buy them, you can transfer them onto any of your music-playing devices or computers. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lennon Piano Spreading Peace and Magic.

Remember the reporter who asked me if I felt any "energy" or magic coming from the Lennon piano? She wrote a lovely piece in the Puget Sound arts magazine, Weekly Volcano:

Magic was captured in Olympia Tuesday in the notes to a song that a Steinway & Sons upright piano drew out of John Lennon, a haunting call to peace and love made more poignant after Lennon’s assassination.


the piano went to an individual home for the first time. The Clayton family lost their son to suicide after assaults plagued his bisexual psyche. Their Olympia home was the destination of the blue Artemis moving van holding the magic instrument, where composer and good family friend Steve Schalchlin played “Imagine” on the lawn, as well as a song he composed for Bill Clayton titled “Gabi’s Song.”

True was moved by the event, observing that the voice of the family was as strong as the bigger entities such as the Oklahoma City Memorial; the strength of the boy’s spirit brought the magic to Olympia while the strength of the spirit of the piano energized Schalchlin to pay homage to those suffering while suffusing the space with light.

The magic of the piano, painstakingly transported into the home, pervaded the home, filling it with life and hope and music, with impromptu sing-a-longs driving requests for more sing-a-longs. “All we are saying is give peace a chance” became “give love a chance” and “give life a chance.”

Reality: one unprepossessing brown maple piano with John Lennon’s cigarette burns on the right side.

Magic: “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
I think she caught the event beautifully. Maybe she was just testing me to see if I was some kind of supernaturalist.

Am I A Hater?

I got interesting reactions from a very concerned and beloved family member who felt that my Jerry Falwell blog entry made me look like a hater. She reminded me that I was raised in the same kind of Baptist church that Falwell preached in, and that I was surrounded by wonderful people who loved me.

I responded by first asking if she actually read the entry. I admitted openly that I was concerned about my feelings toward Falwell. I did not feel that I posted a hateful message. But rather, I was expressing my honest gut feelings so that I could examine them and put them in the light of day. Better, I thought, to tell the truth and admit something I'm not proud of than hide it and pretend otherwise.

I looked around the Net and saw that there were many others who openly despised the man and who felt no guilt whatsoever about feeling that way. Their open scorn and hatred was something they felt he deserved.

Maybe he did deserve that kind of rebuke. Maybe he didn't.

But I deny that my post was a hateful post. I simply told the truth about how *I* was feeling. And said that I was not proud of these feelings. In the Soul Force method of non-violence, hate is a violent act. The question each of us who claim to be guided by the principles of non-violence have to face is how we overcome these very human emotions when confronted by the likes of a Jerry Falwell.

Anyone who reads this blog and thinks that I think I'm some kind of perfect role model isn't reading very carefully. I am the first to admit that I am the least of any of you. I look towards people like John Lennon or Martin Luther King Jr. to find my own role models of behavior. MLK had every reason in the world to hate white people, but he didn't. Instead, he hung in there and he believed in us. He believed that we were better people who were misinformed, and that if he brought us to the table and had a chance to sit with his oppressors, they could find a third position agreeable to everyone.

That's why we marched on Lynchburg. And that's why I try to not judge those who hate me. And that's why I feel my emotions about Falwell are wrong. It serves no one's interest to return hate with more hate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Goodbye Jerry Falwell.

The hardest thing about the death of Jerry Falwell is that my initial gut reaction was one I'm absolutely not proud of. The first thought that went through my mind was, "And don't let the doors of hell slap you on your way in."

As Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen said, "While our hearts go out to his family. we can't help but to reflect on his life and think about all of the families he's torn apart and teenagers that committed suicide because he made them feel inferior. He never missed an opportunity to kick our better angels to the curb and capitalize on our lesser demons to advance his career."

The gay and lesbian people in this country, in Jerry Falwell, had a vicious opponent who claimed that AIDS was "God's punishment," who fought vigorously to make sure we were denied any kind of legal standing with our loved ones, and who betrayed us when we approached him for a face to face meeting in Lynchburg -- withholding a promised meal (because he decided he couldn't eat with "sinners") and shoving the hateful Michael Johnston in our faces, the so-called exgay who was having unsafe gay sex orgies on the side despite his HIV+ status.

And yet, people who I respect, who were close to him, said he was actually a man of strong principles who did what he genuinely thought was right, and who wasn't simply a hypocritical shill. At the very least, I can hold some respect for people who say what they mean and mean what they say.

Sadly, from his beginnings as a confirmed segregationist (who later recanted) to the man who bitterly tried to cheat us of our civil rights before the law, Rev. Falwell mixed politics and religion and created a nasty stew of homophobic bigotry and hate.

Their side always said that they could "love the sinner but hate the sin." The question that I confront, as a person dedicated to non-violence of thought, word or deed, is whether I can do the same to a man I've alternately despised and outright loathed during his time here on earth.

I don't know if I can. And that's my burden to bear.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Big Voice Art at Broadway World

Gorgeous illustration of Carl and Dale in The Big Voice by Norn Cutson now at Broadway World.

Playbill Says Goodbye.

Today, Playbill Online gives a front page goodbye to the New York production of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" After six months and 125 performances, a very healthy run, we finally say goodbye to Big Voice in New York. My heartfelt thanks to the producers, the investors, the volunteers, to the brilliant Carl Danielsen and Dale Radunz and, especially, for the fans who kept us alive. But it's only the beginning! Jim and I open again in San Francisco in August at the New Conservatory Theater.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hate Crime Murderer Gets Life.

Box Turtle Bulletin reports on the horrible murder of a gay man in Alabama. His murderer pleads guilty and gets life, but by law, they have to finish telling the story of how it all happened. It's a horrific read. But these stories have to be told or the world will stay in denial.
On July 18, 2004, Gaines, Kelsay, and Porter plotted Weaver’s death because Gaines and Kelsay thought that Weaver was interfering in their relationship. Weaver had let Gaines and Kelsay stay with him in his home for a while. Porter simply didn’t like Weaver because of his sexuality. So that evening, Porter and Gaines snuck up on Weaver as he slept. Weaver woke briefly and begged Gaines to stop as Gaines wrapped a rope around his neck while Porter held Weaver’s feet. Weaver struggled to get away, but was overpowered.

After Weaver died, Gaines, Porter and Kelsay drove around town, stopping in at Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen and Arby’s. They even stopped into Kelsay’s mother’s house and played cards for a while before returning to Weaver’s trailer where his body still lay.

Gaines and Porter wrapped Weaver’s body in a blanket and loaded it into the trunk of a car. They stopped at a service station and filled a 3-liter bottle with gasoline before driving out to a lonely stretch of road. There, they laid Weaver face up on the blanket, poured gasoline on his body, urinated on him, then set his body on fire.

Scotty Joe Weaver’s body was found four days later.

Thoughts about John Lennon's Piano.

[On May 8th, 2007, I was invited to play and sing on John Lennon's piano, the one upon which he wrote the song, "Imagine." It was the anniversary of the death of Bill Clayton, a 17-year old who committed suicide after a gaybashing and the piano was there as part of the IMAGINE Piano Peace Project, sponsored by George Michael (the piano's owner) and Kenny Goss, his partner in life who owns an art gallery in Dallas.]

I literally woke up at 1:30 the next morning after our event at the Clayton's with this overwhelming feeling that something was... not wrong. Just, well...

After the celebration was over, a reporter -- a girl across the street who was hanging out by the truck -- got this rather conspiratorial look on her face and asked me, "So..." she said leaning in just a bit, "...did you feel any energy coming from the piano?"

I thought to myself, if John Lennon had heard this question, he'd have laughed in her face.

For years now, I've been reading up on the Gandhi/King theories on peace activism. I've participated in events, such as a march on Jerry Falwell's church. I've engaged in debates on the internet with maniacal religious people. And I've been writing this
Peace Cantata or Song Cycle / whatever it is.

I wanted to tell the reporter, "Uh, no. It's just a piano." The one thing about John Lennon that I believe, even though I never met him, was that he hated bullshit, especially when it came to the metaphysical. He didn't believe in magic or gods or fairies or "energies" coming from a piece of wood. (My song "Holy Dirt," is about how, when we ascribe "holiness to objects, people start to die.")

As momentum for this project picks up, people are going to start trying to turn the Imagine Piano into a Magic Piano. Trust me. This is what people do. They are going to try to imbue the piano with metaphysical energy and it's going to be tempting for all involved to allow it to happen. I am imploring them to resist this with all their hearts.

Caroline True, Creative Director, IMAGINE Piano Peace Project.

What I loved about our modest event was that Caroline kept it as an art project. Though we invited local press, we didn't hang banners or streamers. We didn't have a parade of public officials. They didn't invite celebrities or stars. I was there because I have a personal connection to the story of Gabi Clayton and it was she who asked them to bring me there.

They allowed the event itself to provide the meaning. We had a simple, unadorned memorial service for a lovely young man, a 17 year old who died of abject fear of more violence. And we had a celebration of his family's ability to survive the hate and turn his life into something much more meaningful than simply, "Our son's dead."

The piano itself is not magic. There was no "energy" coming from it apart from the energy that vibrated off its strings and sound board. No, it was much, much better than that. If we give all our power to a magic piano, then we will expect it to do all the work for us. But it can be a point of inspiration. Its musical energy and sound inspired a great song. And now, thanks to George Michael and Kenny Goss, it continues to inspire, through this unique project, by being transformed from a thing that creates art into a work of art itself that honors life.

Yesterday, a good friend of mine -- a musician -- asked me the exact same question as the reporter. "So, did you feel any of John Lennon's energy coming from the piano?"

My answer was simple, "No, not from the piano" I said. "The energy of John Lennon came from the people around that piano." They, and only they, the human beings on the lawn that day were the ones channeling the spirit, if you will, of John Lennon by standing up and speaking against hate, violence and war. The power and the meaning of it all came from the people surrounding the piano. Those people holding hands and singing along with tears in their eyes, rededicating themselves to relentless non-violence.

The piano is nothing more than a token. A symbol. The beauty of this project is not that Lennon's piano has some magical force to it. It's that Caroline, Ken and George decided to give it meaning by putting in a place where people could bring meaning to it. And that is true art.

I hope they'll call on me again some day, maybe for an AIDS benefit or perhaps another place where the Lennon piano is being exhibited. I'm not famous. I won't bring out the flashbulbs or the paparazzi. I'm too old to be a rock star and too stubborn to write meaningless drivel. But I believe in the work that I'm doing, as humble as it may be.

I write songs about how I am surviving AIDS. Songs about my gay marriage. Songs about peace and survival, and how religion can be both inspiring (in the hands of a Martin Luther King) and deadly (in the hands of a misguided fanatical fundamentalist or an American President). And even a love song every once in awhile.

Being a part of this project is probably the greatest honor of my life. But, oddly, not only because John Lennon's piano was there. That might be the headline, the thing that drags out the media, but I felt honored by the sense of beauty and heartfelt community that we experienced that afternoon. The fact that we all brought forth the spirit of John Lennon, reminding us that a great man's work doesn't die just because he does.

The people, the press, the well-meaning hordes will try to turn the piano into a magic piano. I hope they don't let them. I hope they remind people that it's only wood and steel. Remind them that the true magic happens when we take tragedy and turn it into victory. When we create peace and love in our hearts and in the lives of the people around us. The magic happens around that piano just as a musical instrument can do nothing until someone picks it up and begins to play.

The true "magic" will be in the heart and eye of the person who sees the art created in the picture album and on the documentary, who hears the stories and the music. The magic and the power to transform ourselves and our world is in each and every one of us.

The power to create art. The power to create peace. The power to create love.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Video on KING5 TV

Here is another video from the event at the KING5 TV site. Since it's outside, my voice doesn't exactly sound "studio-quality," but it is what it is. The camera man did a beautiful job.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"It's A Bunch Of Baloney"

At the article on The Olympian about the Lennon Piano event, the first "comment" that came up was someone saying, "What a bunch of baloney." It made me laugh, but then I thought I have to respond. So I did. Here's what I said:

Well, you know, to comment on the previous statement, "baloney" or not, it was a stunningly gorgeous day in the northwest. The sun was shining brightly. The air crisp, cool and dry.

Olympia was a jewel in the sun. The shady, expansive downtown park sparsely populated with kids, dogs and sunbathers, the character-filled storefronts on the clean streets, the Chinese restaurant with the HUGE portions, the hotel with the brown on brown rooms.

And the close friends and extended family who attended the event were very sincere people. We talked about Bill, how he was a very smart and involved person. And even with a supportive family, the violence that was visited upon him destroyed him.

Photo by Toni L. Bailey/The Olympian

I was more than humbled to have been asked to perform. As a musician who grew up idolizing The Beatles and who believes in the power of the kind of relentless non-violence as idealized by John Lennon, to play this piano, the very one on which he composed "Imagine" was the kind of once in a lifetime fantasy no self-respecting songwriter would ever turn down.

If that's baloney, serve me up a big deli-sized sandwich.

PS The photos by Toni L. Bailey are breathtaking. But am I really that old? Oy.

A Video From The Olympian.

(Photo by Toni L. Bailey/ The Olympian)

I just got back to Houston and will write up a diary entry soon, but here is a link to the story about our experience in Olympia with the Lennon Piano and some video shot by the newspaper.

Imagine Peace Tour In Olympia video.

UPDATE: Gabi wrote about the event on her blog today. She begins:
Yesterday was a dream I will never wake from, and yet so real. I am grounded in love and community.

John Lennon's piano was on my lawn and in my dining room. You should have seen sweet wonderful Steve Schalchlin's hands dance on that piano, and heard him sing "Imagine", "Will It Always Be Like This?" and so many other songs, bringing the piano to life!

I wish John Lennon had been here, and yet I think everyone felt he was - in spirt. Steve was a channeler for John Lennon's energy through the music. Both of these amazing men have left their songs imprinted on my heart and my home.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Night John Lennon Died.

The night John Lennon died, I was in the Columbus Ohio Airport Rodeway Inn playing in a bar band for about three patrons and two bar staff. There was snow on the ground outside and no one, included us, wanted to be there.

We took a break, our last one of the night, and headed back up to our rooms, flipped on the TV and that was when I heard the news. It shook me up so badly, the thought of going back to that empty club and playing another set was more than I could bear. Since almost no one was in the gloomy club anyway, the band members asked me if I'd just get on the piano and play out the time.

It wasn't until I sat down behind the keyboard that it hit me that I'd be making the public announcement to whoever was that John Lennon had been assassinated. I wasn't even sure I could say the words out loud.

Still in shock, I took the mic and said, "I have some news. John Lennon was just shot and killed."

And then I did something I had never done in my life.

I played the song "Imagine" all the way through without a single mistake.

I had never rehearsed it. Never sung it before. Wasn't even sure what key it was in. But something gripped me that night, some spirit of sadness and strength, and I just sang the song. The words tumbled out of me. A verse would be approaching and though I had no idea what the lyrics were before I sang them, I'd open my mouth and they'd be there.

Today is May 8th, the anniversary of the day Bill Clayton took his own life. On this day, John Lennon's piano will be carried to his home, and without ceremony, without a plan, without any kind of marching band or hoopla, the IMAGINE piano will sit in this place where violence occurred and they will take a photo and, just as I did on that cold, December day in Columbus, Ohio, I will get to play "Imagine" once again. And the reason I'm there, as Caroline True said last night in Gabi's living room, is because Gabi wants me there.

UPDATE: Covered in the press by Earthtimes.org and The Olympian, and at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dogs & Pianos & Peace.

The other evening, we were invited to dinner at the home of two really wonderful guys. We knew we were in love with them when, with one out on the patio workin' the barbecue and the other in the kitchen getting some utensils, Jim and I looked at each other and said, "They've got to have animals." As comfortable as they made us feel, and as comfortable as they were with each other, we knew there was something missing.

So, we asked, "Do you guys have pets?"

They said they had two dogs down in a room with the door closed since they didn't know if we were animal people. And we're, like, "WELL, BRING THEM OUT! We wanna play with the doggies!"

"Yeah. We want to meet the whole family."

Well, up the staircase from below came two big, happy, tail-slappy white and tan dogs (Labs) named Grace and Travis who were excited to be out with the rest of the pack. We embraced them and got little licks and happy dog energy. Their tails were whipping so hard, we had to put our drinking glasses up on higher tables to keep them from getting broken. I couldn't have loved it more. Made me miss our kitties really badly.

Then, on the other side of this room was this beautiful black grand. Made in Berlin in 1918. On the stand was a book of Chopin favorites.

It sounded beautiful. And it was in tune. I could feel the resonance in my gut, and the big open two-room expanse had beautiful acoustics. They asked if I'd sing so I performed "Will It Always Be Like This," the song about Gabi Clayton. And I sang "Imagine." It led me to sing songs from my ever-upcoming folk peace cantata ("Holy Dirt," "My Thanksgiving Prayer," "Lazarus Come Out," "Cool By Default," "The Faces In The Music") and "Connected" (from The Last Session).

We talked about religion and politics and spirituality and peacemaking. Our new friends were smart and articulate, and both had great hearts. As I sang and we all talked, I couldn't help but think about the upcoming event in Gabi's house, wondering how it would all work -- and what I'd play if I could just stop time at that event and play all day and night.

When I spoke with Caroline True, the creative director of the Imagine Piano Peace Project, about the event, she said they try to not plan too much, but to simply let the moment happen. Put the piano in the place of violence and just let it speak for itself. Let the people do what they will do. The mere fact of this piano in this place is what is really powerful. The poetry of it is overwhelming. The sound of this little instrument inspired a great and meaningful anthem to peace.

I believe in the power of a great song, a great photograph, a great instrument, a great film, or just a great life. What the world needs right now, as "Imagine" would have it, is not more war or more ideology or more religion or more money. In "Holy Dirt," a song about how we make "objects" holy and protect them, but then so easily live with the daily stream of violence against people, the lyrics go:
I said There’s not a grain of sand
Worth any girl or boy
But somehow in our twisted minds
The killing turns to joy

We watch it like a football game
And wait for it on CNN
Cuz winning’s somehow everything
And they’ll rerun it all again
In Gabi's Song, we ask, "Will it always be like this?"

Yeah, the world as imagined by John Lennon is probably not an actual achievable goal. But if people lived "as if" there were no countries, religions, possessions, etc., we'd be creating, around us, exactly what one imagines heaven would be.

Tomorrow, I fly to Seattle. My stomach is fluttering with butterflies of anxiousness and joy. And it's all because of Gabi & Alec & Noel -- and Caroline True. Thank you so very much -- and, of course, thanks to George Michael and Kenny Goss. I feel humbled and privileged to be invited to be a part of this work of art.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lennon's Piano Has Inner Beauty.

Blog post describing the remarkable beauty of the Lennon Steinway upright. It looks plain and ordinary on the outside, but on the inside, it is a great musical instrument.
John's piano can't really be called "utterly unremarkable." This is because it's not any old saloon bar or knees-up "Joanna", but a Steinway Model Z, made in Hamburg (most Steinways are made in Long Island City, Queens, New York). Model Zs have never been cheap to buy. I think what Ed means is that this particular piano, with its mechanism housed in a bland, functional 60s-style casing looks "utterly unremarkable", while, of course being special in every other way. This includes the way it plays, its smooth, mellow tone and its big Steinway sound that, while no match for the same company's magnificent Model D Concert Grands, is something really quite special.

While certainly not an "everyday design" in terms of cost, performance, craftsmanship and sheer overall quality, the Steinway Z is a reminder that some of the very best machines and artefacts around us can seem quite ordinary, almost banal, if only looked at rather than used. And, it's true that John Lennon's Steinway Model Z does look very much like the sort of piano you might find in a school hall or the living room a of music teachers struggling by on a music teachers' salary while dreaming, perhaps, of sitting at the keyboard of a Steinway Model D.

Lennon's piano, then, is the very opposite of either "bling" or "iconic" design - fashionable today - both concerned, unashamedly with, first and foremost, the ways thing look. And provoke, gleam and generally grab the attention even of those trying hard not to look their way.

Thanks to Gabi for the link.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Big Voice on the Barry Z Show.

Barry Z is a NY cable show host and he made a very funny show from an interview with us.

Friday, May 04, 2007

You May Say I'm A Dreamer.

When I called my friends last night, this is how I delivered the news:

"George Michael is flying me to Seattle on Monday to play and sing 'Imagine' on John Lennon's piano."

How's that for a headline. But it looks like it's true. The plane reservation is set. The hotel is booked. The surprise I hinted at earlier in this blog is happening. I'm so excited and so overwhelmed at the thought of actually doing it, I can barely sit still to type this.

Here's how it went down:

Gabi Clayton called me on Wednesday to tell me that she had some very good news. She sent me the link to lennonpiano.com and said that they had contacted her to participate in an even to happen this next Tuesday at her house May 8, the anniversary of the death of her son, Bill.

Longtime readers of my diary know that I met Gabi at least 10 years ago over the net after having seen a picture of Bill. I also wrote and recorded a song -- "Will It Always Be Like This" -- about her and the whole incident. (You can find this track in the store over in the right hand column of his blog if you want to hear it and purchase it).

I encouraged her to put his story up in full detail, and this led to her work as an activist and an advocate against hate and violence. So, she told me that when Caroline True from the IMAGINE Piano Peace Project contacted her and said they wanted to put John Lennon's piano in her home to take a photo of it for a souvenir album, Gabi insisted they contact me and allow me to participate.They're bringing the piano to places of violence and taking photos of the IMAGINE piano in these places in order to bring attention to these acts of violence. They will be making a photo book and are also shooting a documentary of the process.

Caroline then looked at this website and immediately called me, told me the story, asked me if I'd like to play "Imagine" on that piano and would I be available to fly to Olympia on Monday.

I was so stunned at the suggestion, I just -- I mean, who could say no to that??

And there's another aspect of this that I've discussed in my diary on more than a few occasions. To me, pianos are living things. I approach a new piano the way a lover might approach a virgin bride. I believe that every piano has a song inside just waiting to get out. Sound is a tangible thing to me. I touch a piano gently and I play the keys as if there's a tender life somewhere inside.

Sounds create songs, for me. For instance, down at Stages Theatre, where I'm writing these days while Jimmy does Zero Hour, the little studio upright is mostly in tune in the upper ranges but way out of tune in the lower ranges. So, I dance around, trying all the different places on the piano looking for a particular "sweet spot" that sounds beautiful. Then, I lean into that sweet spot and I let a new song emerge from that sound.

My point is that pianos, to me, are alive. I feel the same kind of sadness in my soul when I see an abused piano that I feel when I see a great ocean liner going down. I see each piano as a living entity with a song waiting for me to discover.

So, the idea of sitting down at John Lennon's piano. The piano that produced "Imagine" and God knows what other songs. I feel as giddy as a schoolgirl on a first date. Who knows. Maybe I'll even sit there and write a song. Wouldn't that be amazing.



George Michael bought the Lennon piano at an auction in October 2000. Considered the most expensive piece of pop memorabilia, experts have estimated its value at US$8 million to $12 million. Michael and his partner, Kenny Goss, owner of Goss Gallery in Dallas, want to further strengthen the project’s peaceful message, by having “Imagine” performed on the piano at each stop. A video documentary and a published volume of the images are under development, with plans to donate proceeds to charity.

The song, “Imagine,” was first released in 1971 and was already John Lennon’s most famous post-Beatles song, but it took on a whole new life of its own following Lennon’s murder in December 1980. When first released, “Imagine” reached No. 3 in America and No. 6 in Britain but after Lennon’s death in December 1980, the song gave him a posthumous No. 1.

Lennon bought the piano in December 1970, had it delivered to studios at his home in Tittenhurst Park in Berkshire, composed and recorded “Imagine” on it. The piano is a simple upright style instrument, not the white piano which graced the cover of the album. In 1992, it was bought by a private British collector who put it up for auction in October 2000.

Goss Gallery: Founded by Dallas native Kenny Goss, Goss Gallery (www.gossgallery.com) is located at 2500 Cedar Springs Road at Fairmont in Uptown Dallas. Headed by curator/director and internationally recognized art advisor Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi, it is a contemporary art gallery featuring a rotating group of international young as well as established artists and was specifically created to reflect the feel and program of the leading galleries of London, Paris and New York, with regularly scheduled exhibitions of 20th and 21st century contemporary painting and photography.

Creative Director, Caroline True: With a career that has spanned over two decades and crossed the Atlantic, Caroline True is an experienced and accomplished personality in the entertainment industry. Having worked extensively with acclaimed artists George Michael, The Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz and many others, True has served on both the creative and production sides of the music business, demonstrating an artistic talent along with strong business connections. Recently, she has extended her expertise into the art world through her work with George Michael and Kenny Goss on the IMAGINE Piano Peace Project.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

11th International Carnival of Pozitivities

Today I'm happy to host the International Carnival of Pozitivities, which is a compendium of posts from across the Internet that deal with issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Most of them are blog posts, but some are videos and some are news items. I hope you enjoy.

Barbra Sundquist presents Drop Dead Happy posted at WelcomeJoy.com.

"After living 15 plus years with HIV, I am simply happy to wake up each morning healthy and capable of being a positive force in my world - something many of my friends did not have the chance to experience.....gratitude, joy and peace all rolled into one."

Sixteen Candles: Guest Writer Robin Hope Returns posted at 2sides2ron. Robin Hope describes the joy and the struggles of adopting an HIV positive baby:

The ignorance that still floats around is amazing . My daughter comes home from school and relays to me how some kids in her health class still believe that you will get AIDS just from being in the same room. Ashley wants to stand up and scream, but instead she screams silently, afraid of the repercussions if she were to disclose her diagnosis

Forget Imus: What about The Pied Pipers of Sex? Welcome Guest Writer Emanuel Stanley of Philadelphia, PA posted at 2sides2ron. Emanuel Stanley is a Disease Intervention Specialist for the Department of Public Health in Philadelphia. He is also a freelance writer and spoken word/ rap lyricist. In his post, he decries the overt sexual aggression displayed in too many popular songs on the radio, referring to them as the "Pied Pipers of Sex."

“Smashing” or “getting smashed” and “smackin’-sum-cheeks” is the terminology currently being used in the social circles that follow the Hip Hop Culture and in some R&B and rap lyrics; it refers to unaffectionate and reckless sexual intercourse with a partner (straight or gay) who could be a pick-up, anywhere from a local mall to a house party or nightclub, and may be a one time only encounter. This term is also used by monogamous teens and the ones who have multiple sex partners. Many times protection (condoms) is an inconvenience seldom used thus helping to spread Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, the two most common sexually transmitted diseases amongst teenagers, which can cause sterility in both males and females. Not to mention the high teenage pregnancy rate with all the “baby momma drama” which seems to be a “badge of honor”, since so many ‘babies’ are having babies.

Al-Muhajabah's Islamic Blogs: AIDS prevention in Iran posted at Al-Muhajabah's Islamic Blogs details the surprising nature of AIDS education Iran.

One of Iran's most acclaimed advances comes from its notoriously secretive network of prisons, where hundreds of drug-addicted inmates sometimes share the same makeshift syringe to inject heroin smuggled in by guards or visiting relatives. In a startling acknowledgment of sex and drugs even in its most closely guarded quarters, the Tehran administration has made condoms and needles available in detention centers across the country.

"Iran now has one of the best prison programs for HIV in not just the region, but in the world," said Dr. Hamid Setayesh, the coordinator for the U.N. AIDS office in Tehran. "They're passing out condoms and syringes in prisons. This is unbelievable. In the whole world, there aren't more than six or seven countries doing that."

Howard considers ban posted at Suite101: AIDS/HIV blog.
John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, has said that he would consider banning HIV-positive immigrants and refugees from Australia.

Shawn Decker
blogs about Virginia Tech as he and his wife continue their AIDS education tour. Yesterday Gwenn and I were just about to leave our house and drive to Philadelphia to speak at Drexel University. After I made sure that TiVo was up to speed on our TV-watching needs, I turned on the news

Speakers, you should know, can be fixated on their topics, but I avoided doing any lame kind of tie-in, which would have been disrespectful and inappropriate. I got a little choked up, but spoke as eloquently as possible. After I acknowledged our collective grief and worry, I was left me with only one possible segue into the program: "Now on to the fun topic... of AIDS!"

A Legacy of Mistrust posted at Miss Empowe(RED) examines some very hard questions facing the African American community when it comes to trusting the medical establishment.

Someone enlighten me, aren't there more laws in effect that can prevent the Tuskegee Airmen tragedy from occuring again? Haven't black people in general made a move, made a stance in science and health with new discoveries?

While I personally have dreamed of a cure, I also have reservations in a slight paranoia that our government or people who have their eyes on monetary gain and power, would compromise an entire group of people's health to make a profit. We've all seen it in those Sci-Fi movies where the scientist is willing to sacrfice a portion of humanity to save mankind. I'm not a scientist and I don't think that way, but I understand the logic as this method of thinking has brought many medical breakthroughs, BUT….

Check out the AIDS clock from Myspace user AIDS.

My Life with HIV posted at Marathon Boy describes discovering his HIV diagnosis while training for an AIDS marathon.

Response to Getting a Workout at a Healthclub posted at Rick R. Reed

Sorry the post upset you so much. BUT...number one, this is not a made up story; it's true and I witnessed it at a gym in downtown Chicago. Number two, gay men are still getting infected and bareback sex is becoming more and more prevalent (just go to any gay hookup site and see how many guys are looking for just that; unprotected anal sex is one of the best ways to transmit the virus and if you think that's no longer happening in our community, you're burying your head in the sand). I know that one exposure doesn't automatically lead to infection...the point, though, is that it CAN and ultimately one exposure IS the one that infects. Third, I am not an evangelical Christian. I am an out, proud, and HIV+ gay men who cares about his brothers and doesn't want to see them in the same boat as I'm in, which is why I think stories like this one are important.

My friend, Brian, at ACID REFLUX has been going through a terrible life crisis having slipped back into drug use, but is facing it head-on.

This slip made me realize how much bigger and powerful injecting made drug use. I never fantasized about smoking cigarettes or a pipe after quiting pot. I never wanted to snort something after stopping doing coke or crystal that way. Yet the entire ritual of getting everything together, preparing the drug, cooking it in the spoon, getting the syringe ready, tying off, and then finally injecting was all equally about the high as the drug itself. And in many ways, the drug was almost irrelevant. As one person said to me, “A friend asked me once, ‘If I just inject water, does that count as a relapse?’”

What do you think caused your heterosexuality? is a humorous post by Wesley.

WolfLair Pediatric AIDS posts
a child-friendly kit for HIV/AIDS awareness

A voluntary group of teenagers in India has developed a child-friendly communication kit on HIV/AIDS during a series of capacity building workshops.
The special kit named HAAP will help in creating awareness on HIV/AIDS in India and countering the social stigma attached with the disease.
Developed in four languages namely Hindi, English, Telugu and Kannada, HAAP will enable children to learn about HIV/AIDS. It disseminates information through puppets, comic books, computer games and animation films.

Guest Post: AIDS is becoming feminine - Be conscious!

The following comes from AIDS Combat Zone reader Mohammad Khairul Alam, Executive Director of Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. You can see other posts by Mr. Alam at his blog. More than half of all new HIV infections occur in women between the ages of 15 to 24 years. The impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls is particularly acute. In many developing or poor countries, women are often economically, culturally and socially disadvantaged and lack equal access to treatment, financial support and education.

Charlie Raver presents Refrigeration and HIV Meds in Resource-limited Settings posted at The AIDS Pandemic.

One of the distinguishing characteristics between the AIDS epidemic in the developed world and that in Africa and the developing world is a simple lack of the infrastructure to deal with the disease. Infrastructure includes everything from roads to electricity to hospitals. One example that most of us rarely think of as a gift, couldn’t dream of walking into a home and not finding, and would be lost without is something to which many in the developing world do not have access. What am I talking about? Refrigeration. Without this amazing piece of technology we would not be able to easily enjoy fresh meats, fish, dairy, and many simple nutritional luxuries that we as Americans take for granted. In addition to problems with food preservation, hospitals and health clinics would be unable to store blood, vaccines, heat intolerant medicines, and many laboratory supplies.

YouTube - The Awassa Children's Project posted at AIDSvideos.org.

About an orphanage in Ethiopia that has dedicated itself to fighting HIV/AIDS. Most of these children have lost their families to this pandemic. By using guerilla theater in community market places, these orphans are able to educate and inform a population otherwise ignorant to the disease and it's communicability.


One of the most sweeping anti-gay bills ever introduced in any parliament in the world is in danger of rapid passage in Nigeria in the coming weeks. Although billed as a ban on same-sex marriage, the proposed law includes provisions that would make any expression of homosexuality — not only sexual conduct but any homosexual inclination or reference — in public or in private, a crime.

Ron Hudson for HIVHSN presents Coping skills can boost HIV survival, study shows posted at HIV HEALTH AND SUPPORT NETWORK COMMUNITTY NEWS.

HIV patients live longer if they face stress by venting their feelings, taking a realistic view of threats to their health and keeping a sense of self-worth, a study suggested.

Melody and Martha presents Burial traditions posted at The Nata village blog. This is a fascinating look at burial traditions in Nata, especially relevant in light of the AIDS pandemic.

Dragonette presents Bug life/niets is zeker posted at NotPerfectAtAll. Describes the Dutch insurance system...

Insurance, what a strange concept. My health bill for 2006 came through, it was more than 13,000 Euro. Luckily the Dutch health system reformed. I mean, when I was diagnosed I wasn't even insured, but they changed the law as they do every couple of years and during 2006 no health insurance company is allowed to refuse anyone. So, momentarily, I am safe.

Hélène Hazera of Act-Up Paris, France and Dr. Nicholas Hacher: ARV Therapies and Hormonal Interactions? posted at 2sides2ron. This article discusses hormonal reactions with AIDS therapies, particularly as they relate to transgender persons.

Say Goodbye To The Down Low | keithboykin.com posted at keithboykin.com. Keith Boykin discusses the myths of "Down Low" in the African American community.

Six Years Later -- I've been writing about the down low hype for 5 years now. The good news is that a lot of people have gotten the message. The bad news is that too many others have not. So here we are in 2007, six years after the down low story first surfaced, and there's still not a shred of evidence to prove this myth, but some of us are still talking about it as though it's the most serious threat to black America. It's not.

Stephan Adelson and HIVConnect.net posted at 2sides2ron. Launched on March 1st, HIVConnect.net is a unique site that connects all sectors of the HIV/AIDS community. This new social network is a place of free dialogue for people with HIV/AIDS, Community Based Organizations, AIDS Service Organizations, and the family / friends of HIV-positive people.

YouTube - Let's Talk About Sex- WKU Video Project posted at YouTube.

A teen hotline reaching teen's who need to know about sex health and education. This video is here to answer those questions you were afraid to ask in your health class. If you've ever wondered if masturbating gives you hairy palms or if you couldn't get pregnant in the shower this is the video for you!!

YouTube - Let's talk about sex posted at YouTube.

A funny part on Young Americans wherein Jacqueline's (Katherine Moennig) mother asked her if she were really sleeping (having sex) with Hamilton (Ian Somerhalder)

Dissing Disability posted at DJ Miss Money.

In 2004, my neurologists did not give my music career much of a chance. I've always rocked a boy's haircut and one earring so I'm used to folks doubting my ability. What they said didn't matter. To this day, that is how I think and feel. What other people say and think doesn't matter. A magazine recently wrote that I had been "sadly diagnosed". Who sad? I have a bigger audience now than I ever did before!