Sunday, June 30, 2013

Photos: Character Man Last Night.

Jim Brochu with the great character men he adores and praises. I took this photo during the rehearsal.

 On the way there, Jim was thinking intently about the night.

Remember our ol' pal, Jeramiah Peay? Also known as "Jim's rock," as his stage manager, they meet before the show.

The Metropolitan Room was jammed.

Jim shows the photo of himself in his white suit along with his dad and Joan Crawford and her two sons.

Julie Budd with director Robert Bartley.

Jim Brochu with performer/producer Jamie DeRoy.

Jim Brochu with comedian/club owner Bernie Furshpan and Joanne Camilleri-Furshpan.

Jim Brochu with singer K.T. Sullivan.

Jim Brochu with legendary vocalist Marilyn Maye.

Jim Brochu with songwriter Ervin Drake and his wife, Edith.
Jim Brochu, playwright/performer Charles Busch, Broadway star Lee Roy Reams.

Legendary cabaret performer Julie Wilson caresses Jim Brochu's face.
Guess who.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Meeting An Old Pal.

Had lunch with a dear out of town acquaintance today -- a hideous veggie wrap. The lunch, not the friend.

In his own life, he felt completely pointless and he felt very much alone. He had no direction in his work and wasn't doing what he really wanted to be doing, but because he was running out of money, he was going from job to job.

Since that describes pretty much everyone I know, we just used to the time to be in each other's presence.

At one point, I told him that I've had to just reduce my life down to what keeps me alive -- and that is making music, following my diet and staying completely in the moment, not in some future, even though I enjoy fantasizing about it. I know it won't make me any happier than sitting here with my friend for a short 45 minutes -- and then, he's off to who knows where.

At our meeting, the main topic of conversation was all the bad news and frustrations. But what really happened in that little cafe was two old friends reconnected on a heart level.

The kind you can only do when you're in the same room, after you've had that first embrace.

We didn't solve each other's problems, but I came away refreshed and reinvigorated.

You can live every day
You can die every day

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jamming with Nicholas.

Nicholas Perry, violinist.
In prepping for my next assault in the recording studio, I came across this young man over at Mark Janas' house. They were playing some ridiculously complex piece of classical music and I just sat there kind of stunned. When it was over, we got to talk and I found out Nicholas is new in town, and that he's not just a classical musician, but is also a very soulful improviser. So, I invited him over to see if we could click on any of the songs. There was one I had in mind, especially, a song about an addict, called "The Craving."

And how do you not love that smile?

Nicholas Perry's smile.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lori Tan Chinn poses with Playbill.

Anyone who is a fan of great comedic movie scenes knows the "YOU EAT COOKIE!" scene from the movie "Mickey Blue Eyes" starring Hugh Grant. The uncredited actress in that scene is the great Broadway performer Lori Tan Chinn. Jim and I met her at the Polish Tea Room for lunch where he gave her a pre-Broadway Playbill of the musical "Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen."

She told me the story behind the scene:
Actually, I read somewhere on some Comedy Hall of Fame, the scene made the list of memorable performances. Hugh Grant and producer went on every talk show with that clip - it was the only contained comic portion of the film that showed something funny. They never mentioned my name, although Conan O'Brian, Jay Leno, and some other hosts suggested he & I do a "buddy movie" together. And to think, they never wanted me in the first place - they were looking for a very old Chinese lady, but after I thought I had lost the role, discovered that mine was the performance to beat. The producers never even called to tell me I had the role. I just got a call asking if I would be available to shoot on a day that was rained out on a previously planned shoot day. They gave me scale and no billing. Unfortunately, you can't take that to the bank....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Manhattan Bonus Round Video Diary: May 2013, Pt. 2

See all the rest of the fun, including a brand new recording of "Rescue," live in the studio.

One WTC and Firehouse.

One WTC and Hook & Ladder 21, Engine 34.
Now, I've discovered that the sun hits the firehouse, in June, right about 6:50 AM. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Manhattan Bonus Round Diary: May 2013 Pt. 1

As we take our "almost 2 seconds at a time" tour of Steve and Jim's, we find a great singer, Marilyn Maye, singing better than she's ever sung in her life -- and taking New York by storm. Steve and Jim sing for a fundraiser, take their daily walks, plus choir on Sunday and all good things.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

PHOTOS: WTC Sunrise New York. June 13, 2013

This morning, just before sunrise, I looked out and saw that the sky was overcast. Which means blue and blue and black. Then I noticed that the glass buildings were radiating a pink color, as if lit from below.

As the sun rose, it made the whole sky lighter. This is about 5:30:

Look how the curve of the WTC picks up the pink all the way to the top. It's kind of breathtaking in person because the pink is radiant, not flat as in the photo.

PHOTO: WTC Sunrise, New York. June 12, 2013.

Photo credit: Steve Schalchlin
The new WTC's first June 12th sunrise.

Photo: World Trade Center at Night from 10th Avenue.

When you look at the World Trade Center, up center on the horizon, it is very bright even though they haven't finished building it. Those are construction work lights that they put on every floor. So, it lights up the sky like a torch. This is looking down 10th avenue.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Return of the Gay Lunts.

I'm here to confirm the rumor that Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin will play the leading roles in a short film called "The Pact" written by Megan Stein. It will be for the same short themed film festival competition that I was involved in last November.

More info as it becomes available.

PIC: The Honeymooners at Sardi's.

Each time I go into Sardi's and see this arrangement, I am transported back to another time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Incorporating "disease" into your life.

I don't actually spend that much blogtime
Or real life time talking about my ailments
So all this attention to my virus lately
And the side effects
Feels a bit weird

But it wasn't a publicity stunt
I didn't seek them
They found me
And I'm glad they did

I'm glad you did

Anyway, just for the record:
A blog post about ailments

People read the article and ask
"How do you do it?"
Meaning the pills, the shots,
The diet, the pain, the side effects
And the pills for the side effects

The answer is you incorporate it
You live as if you were born this way
And that everyone is this way
You just incorporate it
And move on

I'm always thinking, through the day,
Two or three steps ahead
Will there be water?
Are we going to eat?
What do I need to bring?

But since music is the biggest part
Of my therapy
My mind is mostly on fixing that rhyme
Cutting that verse
Plus subtle key changes
I've been doing sneaky key changes lately

And when my mind is on my key changes
I forget to bring my insulin shot
And you see how it goes
There I am with a plate full of food
And I can't eat it

But I'm learning to make those moments rare

But that's it
It all started back when I made that initial decision
To live

Of course

But that's all I do
I just incorporate it, without embarrassment,
And keep moving

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Tales From the Bonus Round: A Reader Responds.

By Bonus Round Reader, BRBN

In response to AIDS in NY: The First Five Years

I hope that this work of being an inside reporter
is as useful to the planet as it is altruistic.
the awareness factor is important;
but the dumbing down of the youth
is perhaps the more scary proposition.

in my 57 years I myself have contracted many of the
nuisance STD - the ones that don't outright kill you but shorten your happiness factor.
and I paid attention and knew how and where and why.
When in fact - what did I care at that time? I was getting some -
I was plain lucky.

One evening after a month long small time courtship with a gal from the Police Station Radio Room
where I had been dispatching my way thru College -
the two of us turned out to have the same 3 day weekend off.
I invited her to go with me to NYC for a long weekend getaway for some fun and shows and food
and a room and some casual hotness to see how well all things went together.

on the way into town while crossing over from Hackensack /
she yells "take a right!"
I did it - made a sneaky exit that stuck me on a dark street in Harlem.
At a particularly freaky corner I saw a building with a hole in the wall.
It looked to me like a scene from the nightly news
in Viet Nam except more citified like Beirut looks nowadays.

Before I could comment i noticed that my companion was
no longer in the car but running towards this hole in the wall.
The light changed and I was forced to circle -
I liked her but I was a bit scared to go in after her.

I didn't have to -
she was out in less than a minute
with a bloody sleeve and fresh vomit on her silk shirt.

She jumped back into my car slowly and said,
"I got three bags - 1 for you and 2 for me. This will make our weekend fun all the easier."
I turned the car around as she wrecked the front seat with more puking
and asked why she thought that this was a good idea.

There were no good answers -
and I brought her to her mom's house,
and then to a local clinic - her mom said it was
a five year old problem already and she was done;
but that this was where to take her.

Imagine how many people she was
with and had shared needles with?
Narrow escapes.

Seriously she never spoke to me again at work
and I never told her or anyone else of her problem
except that she had been hurt on the street in NYC.
The Captain said, "We know why you were both there -"
I passed a drug screen and kept my job - this was
her 15th offense but strings pulled by her uncle had kept her there.

She disappeared and I felt awful.
but the last I heard was that she had OD'd -
a better fate than the AIDS she was carrying -
for me as well. Sounds evil no?

at the time it was more of a gay issue than today
mainly because denial threatens all sentient beings.
I learned early that it's not a gay issue.

I hope you don't mind but I forward these blogs to almost all of my friends and family -
we all have or know people who need the info and/or inspiration.

Also some non-governmental truth.

New Recordings Update.

My dream of sailing into a studio, recording the album in one quick swoop, was a bit of a pipe dream, but also not unsuccessful. In fact, I got one recording that is a total keeper.

Not that there was anything really wrong with the performances, but I'm still feeling out the territory. Someone suggested I start a Kickstarter to get this thing done, but you need a real budget for that. Since I don't know what I'm creating, I can't deliver a budget.

The more I listen to the songs, the more see how I can do it better. So, my second session went better because I had rehearsed. I also, however, brought in some newer material. Stuff newly written, or almost finished, just to hear them out loud and see how they might feel. And though I mostly like what's there, I can do it better. Not by over-rehearsing, but by making sure they're solid in my mind, in terms of structure and flow.

Several friends have offered to sponsor an hour, so that will make it easier.

If the goal, here, is to present an honest, untweaked performance of about an hour's worth of song -- and it is -- then theoretically, I should be able to ace this thing next time around.

BTW, I realize it's old hat to make an "album" and I would prefer to release a song at a time, but I needed to  hear all the songs in context in order to understand how to approach each one.

It's a very exciting trip. I still feel I have a little more study to do before I go back in. Meanwhile, I suppose I could release one of the songs.

Let me ponder.

Manhattan Skyline: Two Red Doors beneath One WTC.

Sun breaks the red doors of Hook & Ladder 21, Engine 34 in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
8 June 2013. 6am
(Photo credit: Steve Schalchlin)
I think I'm going to have to start a calendar of some sort. Maybe I can sell it to pay for the recording sessions.

Friday, June 07, 2013

AIDS In New York: The First Five Years.

New York's first candlelight march.
The stunning New-York Historical Society Museum's AIDS new exhibit opening today called "AIDS In New York: The First Five Years" caught me completely off guard. I wasn't prepared for the flood of emotions that poured into me as I visited a history I both am, and am not, a part of. During those years, I didn't live in New York. In fact, I was mostly in a car, a van or on a plane playing backwater clubs in a cover/show band, renting studio time here and there for midnight recording session, learning my chops as a musician and getting laid and partying, as musicians do.

This world was mostly a straight world, so I get the news of AIDS second hand. A rumor of a "gay cancer." A rumor that it might be a virus. A rumor that no one knew how it was transmitted. A rumor that it was a punishment purposefully sent by God. 

I have this memory of actually being in New York for a few days during that time, and picking up some paper suggesting that this new disease was nothing more than a plot by Heterosexual America to exterminate us, either through disease or fear. Or just a plot to keep us from getting laid!

In the pre-Internet/cell phone days, one lived alone with one's thoughts. I'm not saying it was better or worse than what we have today, but the point is that I was sheltered off from most of the news as we drove from town to town. (I wrote before how I was in the airport Sheraton in Columbus, Ohio -- when John Lennon was murdered). 

So, this past week, as I found myself unexpectedly at the center of a lot of attention because of that amazing front page (Metro section) New York Times story, as well as the BBC story, one of the persons I came in contact with was Timothy Wroten, the Associate Manager, Communications for a place I'd never heard of: The New-York Historical Society.

The first thing I noticed was, of course, the "dash" between "New" and "York" in the title. New-York?

Either this was the most pretentious "society" trying to look "olde," or it was an institution that had been around for a very long time. How happy I was to find out that the latter is the case. 

When did we lose the dash? I guess I'll have to go back to find out. 

Anna Bressanin and Matthew Danizigo, the producers of the BBC segment from their "Altered States" series tied together my story with this exhibit, which I didn't know what happening, the purpose of which is to recall the "dark ages" of AIDS, back before anyone even knew if it was virus.

And in tying us together, focused on how fear and ignorance lead to death. 

Founded in 1804. We were barely a country back then.

Out front, giving Abe a bit of advice.

My L.A. friend, AIDS educator Michael Sugar, was in town.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of history about New York City, including the superb "Island at the Center of the World," which traces a lot of forgotten or unknown history pre-British. It was the Dutch that set the tone for New York (or New-York) to be the multi-cultural "center of the world" that it is.

Beautiful entrance-way.
The lobby area is both expansive and informative with early pictures of New York personalities and art
plus touch screens that describe each object found on the wall. It's really cool to play with.

Then, we went upstairs. The first thing we came to was this.

Claire Yaffa's iconic photographs take your breath away. The black room where these are set, with the photos all around reminded me a bit of the Holocaust Museum in DC where you enter a black room and the walls and ceiling are covered with every snapshots of all the people who lived in that town. But here, the collection is set off one jolting photo at a time.

This one killed me. This room alone with worth the effort.
Yes, your heart will break. But this time cannot be forgotten. 
 Then, we come to the main exhibit.

A perfect touch: vintage televisions with news casts from that time.

The first time it got described.
I had Pneumocystis carinii pneumonica. It almost killed me.
It formed the basis of the Last Session song, "Save Me A Seat."

Timothy Wroten takes us into the darkest days of AIDS.

On the ropes, with seemingly no one caring remotely about gay people -- the subject was never mentioned except in the most extreme "fags go to hell" language -- or other people with AIDS ("they did it to themselves"), the public's perception needed to be changed, the medical industry needed to be pushed, the politics needed to be changed. Funny thing happens when you're fighting for your life: Everything non-essential fades away.

But at the center of it all, as David France demonstrates in his extraordinary documentary "How To Survive A Plague," is education. The people met to get information. Where did it come from? Why is it attacking us? How is it transmitted? What does it do to you once you get it?

With few people looking, and a president looking the other way, you have to do it yourself.

Finally, funding began.

That vaccine does not exist yet.

I relate to this picture today, all the way down to the Metamucil.
The difference was that his meds didn't work.
But it was still a "somebody we don't know" disease until...

Rock Hudson died.
That's, really, when I was aware of Hollywood kicking in their support for us.
If you don't live in New-York, I hope these photos will give you a hint. I am hearing from young people today in 2013 that they aren't quite sure how you get infected, and even if you do, that's it's no big deal.

The unspoken subtext to all this is that health educators and activists are telling me that the big gay national organizations have abandoned us. When asked what their budget is for AIDS education, the answer is somewhat close to ZERO because -- and I quote, "It's not a gay issue."

Their focus on gay marriage, while tremendously successful and worthy of respect, will end in disaster if, in turning away from HIV, they lose another generation.

The tragedy of the AIDS holocaust is can happen again. All it takes is for the virus to mutate (something it does very well) a wee bit more that way rather than this way, and it can all start over again.

You can't get married if you're dead.

The New-York Historical Society's AIDS in NY: The First Five Years runs beginning today through September 15, 2013. And don't miss Larry Kramer on Wednesday, June 26 at 6:30pm discussing his play The Normal Heart, which documents this early history in blistering detail.