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43 posts from June 2006

Jun 29 2006
Superwoman Returns Comments (5)

Madonna tours are like orgasms—even the most Woody Allen of them is right on the money.

Madonna_narrowweb__300x3460_1I attended my first (of six) Confessions Tour shows at Madison Square Garden tonight. I think Madonna's more recent fans are downright spoiled—this is the third time I've marched into MSG in five years, when not so long ago (from 1993 till 2001), Madonna wasn't touring at all. There were the predictable "freaks" (as some ridiculously Snoop Doggish young thugs observed, without irony, outside), the guys in hot pants and purple boas, the over-the-hill chicks in lycra there to remind you that Madonna may also be over the hill but it ain't the same hill, the Chelsea queens with puffed up chests and painted-on vintage tour tees and of course all the uncategorizables—the nerds, the straight guys with ponytails, the soccer moms, the New Jersey nouveau riche, the...I"m not sure what that is. At Madonna's level, there are the wannabes, but there are also always the forgotten yougogirls, just happy to bask in her presence.

I ain't gonna front—I had outrageously great seats, the best I've had for any of her proper tours. I was in Section 4, Row X, Seat 9. I know—it sounds crappy. But Madonna's stage is set up with a catholic regard for her fans, offering a giant catwalk that ended 15 feet from me and two others that extended to the first loge. As we sat there, anxiously awaiting the show to begin (an hour and 15 minutes late), a guy came up to us and asked us our seats, then jumped for joy because he would be sitting there the following night. He cellphoned his companion for tomorrow and told him all about how close they'd be, forgetting he was on top of us. Then I watched a chunky girl and her gay pal enter and gawk at how close they'd be, speechless until she began to cry a bit and he, amused, led her to their final resting place for the night.

I also managed to bump into my friend Giulio from Italy, who I only know after being Madonna pen pals (I know that this sounds hopelessly nerdy, but you can't be a fan of anything without accepting the essential nerdiness of the pursuit) starting 15 years ago. Now we're both entertainment professionals (no, we're not in a touring company of Sugar Babies) and jaded Madonnaficianados, and yet I'm sure both scream like girls when Madonna is cavorting nearby. Giulio was able to introduce me—finally!—to Madonna's legendary publicist, Liz Rosenberg. Her name immortalized by Madonna in the funniest thing she's ever done (a Saturday Night Live sketch bookending Mike Myers with Roseanne at the end of which Barbra Streisand made a surprise appearance), Liz has been incredibly kind to me over the years. When Encyclopedia Madonnica came out in 1995, Liz loved it and told me so, helping to make sure Madonna signed a copy for me. The following year, she contributed photos to a Madonna one-shot magazine I published called Madonna: Superstar of the Century, and she's always sending reporters my way, apparently liking the quotes I supply. You can't miss Liz at any event because she always wears headgear—a tiara or cat ears are preferred. I think this is so she can be spotted in a crowd. She was gracious to me, cupping my chin and complimenting my smile and thanking me for what I've written or said over the years. "Have you seen the show yet?" she asked. "No, I'm a virgin," I said, "but I'll be a whore by July 19th." Liz, known as the wit behind many of Madonna's classic quips, purred, "Honey, you'll be a whore by the third song!"

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Jun 28 2006
Madge-ic Comments (0)

People used to shell out the simoleons for concerts mainly to get closer to an admired idol. Now, with the advent of easily manipulated sounds and visuals, we also go to see with our own eyes if our idols are all they're cracked up to be. If you see it happen in front of you, it's much more exciting and real. You're an eyewitness to a UFO sighting, an eighth wonder, Bigfoot battling Nessie.

Madgl_1I'll be seeing yet another Madonna concert tonight, my first Confessions Tour gig, and probably my ninth or so proper tour show. In the past, I've also seen her twice at The Roxy, that mini-Music gig at Roseland and both of her plays. But talking about Madonna, like talking about other true icons in the Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn mold, quickly leads to broader discussions, and that's even the case personally when it comes to talking about seeing her live.

015I couldn't recite to you each song Madonna sang on her Who's That Girl Tour (I skipped The Virgin Tour, thinking only the slutty cheerleaders would go and since I was too afraid to attend a concert), but I recall the thrill of seeing Ronald Reagan dissed, cherish my naivete in silently counting off which songs she sang (whereas nowadays, we know in advance almost every word that will come out of her mouth) and remember being disappointed when she didn't do "Burning Up" and will always recall how I came out of my shell to bargain with a tour-merch sales guy to buy the promo-only "WORLD TOUR MERCHANDISE" banner over his head.

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It's All Irrelevant Comments (0)

I'm so sick of, "Is Madonna relevant?" It's a truly stupid question to even ask. Not because the answer is "duh, of course!" but because the question itself is meaningless. For example, a recent New York Public Radio show asked if Madonna were still relevant...but is radio relevant, let alone public radio? Whenever the topic arises, there are always the caveats that she still sells records (1.5 million in the U.S. of Confessions On A Dance Floor, closer to 7 or 8 million worldwide, making it the #6 album worldwide of 2005), still spins tour gold (her Confessions Tour is set to become the highest-grossing tour by a female artist) and is on every third page in some form of every tabloid weekly. That argument is like saying, "Madonna's hyper-relevant, but aside from that...is she relevant?" The question I'd like to hear someone answer is: Who—and what—is relevant in music and/or popular culture and/or fashion today, if not Madonna? Any answer you give could be refuted by someone else. That's because relevance is relative. I don't think of Carrie Underwood as meaning anything—and she definitely doesn't get the press to argue against my personal opinion. However, she sells records like the she who sells sea shells by the sea shore; to a whole chunk of the country out there, Carrie Underwood is way relevant, y'all. There are artists in other countries who captivate larger populations than some of our own top artists, yet America (and in many ways the rest of the world) tends to dismiss anything that isn't big in America. In reality, relevance isn't just relative, it's irrelevant.

 
 
Jun 27 2006
Limp-Wristing It Comments (0)

Parting_glances1_1Thanks to Kenneth In The (212) for calling my attention to an MSNBC article on gay cinema. I went to it eagerly since I'd read via Kenneth that Parting Glances, a movie I love, was included...but I was pretty disappointed with what I found. I'm a fan of lists—I've written books of flip lists and am glued to news stories that are nothing more than lists with notations, like today's news that New York City is only the tenth most expensive in the world (Moscow of all places is first...which seems cruel), but this list bothered me.

First, the article begins by glibly marginalizing Gay Pride Month, stating that gay is boring. I didn't go to the parade in New York, so I know what the writer is trying to say. But people in other countries are getting bashed for even attempting a Gay Pride March—it seems like poor taste and poor timing to be yukking it up about the concept of Gay Pride. It also strikes me as hopelessly decadent to say that gayness is boring as if that speaks for everyone. To most of the country, gayness is not boring. It's quite exciting! And not always in a positive way—after all, gayness has led majorities in a large number of states to trudge to the polls to write anti-gay discrimination into state constitutions and to vote Republicans into office while they were at it. The guys—New Yorkers, even—who beat the crap out of Kevin Aviance didn't do so because his homosexuality was Yawnsville. Gayness is not boring, even if some aspects of gay culture (I hear ya, I hear ya) can sometimes feel like old hat to the overinitiated.

Cruise_1But let's get over the glib opening and examine the list. Yeah, not really helping. The movies selected as exemplifying gay cinematic history couldn't be less respectful. To start with Cruising, as repugnant a film as has ever been made with homosexual themes, and to embrace it as camp, is self-defeating. Yes, there are aspects of this film that are campy and even funny. But its place in gay cinematic history should be a dark one, not comedic. And if you watch the film and can laugh at the scene where a gay man is butchered while begging for mercy in a phallic "from behind" stabbing, you're seriously off. The first film mentioned could have been any one of a hundred. But not Cruising. Most of the rest of the films (with the exception of Parting Glances) are either poor movies that have camp value now (Fortune And Men's Eyes), films that are "gay" in the same way that Judy, Barbra and Madonna are "gay" (Moulin Rouge!) and films that were self-parodies on impact (Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls).

I like camp. I like humor. I like bad films. But when you're given a shot at presenting to a mainstream audience 10 or so films that define gay cinematic history, don't get all flouncy and go for laughs like a literary Franklin Pangborn. Is it too much to ask for a well-rounded list, something that might intrigue a non-gay (or non-cinematically astute gay) MSNBC reader to check something out that he or she may never have otherwise? Like I said, kudos on Parting Glances, but...

FortuneI remember once reading an anti-gay commentary regarding camp. It was pointing out that camp, an inarguably, uniquely gay invention, is a highly corrosive, anti-social, self-defeating mechanism, something that destroys. I thought that was a fascinating theory in that camp definitely is quite a killer; imagine the extreme effort and energy that go into a performance, and then imagine the gay guy off to the side screaming, "Oh, please!" That merciless recognition that a piece of art is a piece of crap is quite malevolent. But that is part of the enjoyment, the destruction of something we recognize as stupid. I think to say camp is evil is...well...kinda camp. But there is something to the idea that camp is effortful and sometimes negative. In the case of this list of gay films (to be proud of!), I think its negativity is not within each film selected, but in the fact that the camp has muscled out most of the honestly good films like a fat cat shouldering a skinny cat away from the food dish until it starves.

I'd love to read a really insanely in-depth, new-perspective book on gay cinema, something informed by Vito Russo (I've referenced him once already!) but catching up on the developments of the past 20 years. I know that can't be delivered in an abbreviated online list, but couldn't we at least make room for Pedro Almodovar? Or My Beautiful Laundrette? To argue that the old-time movies, while admittedly a hoot under the right circumstances, are better than the recent queer films where the characters do not have to die in misery makes for fun, snappy copy. But analyze it even passively and the potential negativity of camp isn't far behind. Making fun of a bad situation is brave, longing for the days of bad situations is blind.

 
 
Jun 26 2006
Bush: "Disgraceful." Comments (0)

President Bush has condemned as "disgraceful" the fact that the New York Times reported on a bank-records anti-terrorist program, one that is obviously broad, impinging upon the rights of scads of innocent Americans. It seems as if whenever Bush's back is against the wall, he points at the evil, liberal media. It's a popular tactic because for whatever reason, many Americans despise and mistrust the media—they see the media as ambulance chasers, politically slanted, unreliable, complicit. They see the media as anything but positive, a gigantic case of not appreciating how good you've got it. Bush's justification for everything he's done for five years is that we are in a time of war. That the war was manufactured by the Bush Administration is not allowed to factor in. But what I wonder is if the war is against insurgents, 9/11 architects, Muslims, terrorists...or against the American media, and any other aspect of our society that cramps this president's style.

 
 
Jun 24 2006
The Life Of Brain Comments (3)

Shithead_2There are some things from childhood that you recall so vividly for what may seem like no good reason at all. One childhood memory I have that is indelible for me involves a couple who were my parents' best friends at one point; they later drifted thanks to some office politics and the invariable moves.

ButterThough they were good friends and their children were my best, best friends at that time, I was aware that my parents had fun with them more than genuinely having a fondness for them. They just didn't go about things the same way, our way, the better way. (I'm not criticizing this, just pointing it out.) I think they were just a bit more country. That they had a barn probably didn't help. But there were other things, like allowing their children to pee in the hay, feeding them butter sandwiches (I can remember my mother commenting that butter on bread was not a sandwich...and damned if she was not right) and cursing in front of, well, whoever.

Radio_1The oddball moment I recall so strongly was a time when the man from that couple was on the radio speaking about a local sporting event—he was a key participant—and his wife happened to be at our home, listening with awe that her husband was on the freakin' radio for God's sake. I was there and my mom was there, and the man acknowledged his wife's support in the interview.

"That shithead!" she exclaimed lustily. She poured a confusing array of feelings into each syllable and I felt like I was seeing and hearing something I should not. Her expression was adoring, her words were profane and even demeaning if taken literally. I totally did not get it and was embarrassed.

I think, looking back, that it was hard to accept because I didn't really understand how mates could love and hate each other; maybe it's sexual in a way after all. But it was like I was a Scientology naif accidentally hearing about the existence of upper-level secrets—I just didn't get it and I felt like I was not ready to get it.

This is no explanation. It's like I still don't get it. But what's to get?

MemoryI don't know...but I know I don't get it yet, because another theory I have about searingly memorable moments and details from childhood (the ones you remember for no obvious reason) is that it's like when you can't remember a familiar word, and your brain is trying to think about it until you're driven nuts. Then you forget about it. Then a day later, or a month later, or six months later, you're doing something and your brain nudges you with, "Hey, the word is 'persevere!'" I've heard the mind works on problems while you're not actively, knowingly thinking about them. The more complex the problem or memory lapse, the longer it takes to work it out. Maybe childhood scenes that have no obvious value and yet that keep popping back into your mind have some hidden value that you just haven't figured out yet—and once you do, they'll vanish.Brain_1

 
 
Jun 23 2006
And The Award Gays To... Comments (0)

Boy Culture won Best Feature Film at Majorca and Derek Magyar won Best Actor at Ibiza. I believe both are a part of Festival Del Mar. Kinda great. Frameline also happened and I hear it was a big hit there. Next...OutFest, which I'll be attending.

 
 
American Eye Dull Comments (0)

Taylor_2I know People has to sell magazines, but if this is the face of America's most eligible bachelor then women are much more desperate than they let on.

 
 
Jun 22 2006
Clackers Whack Slackers Comments (0)

Not a review so much as a reaction: I liked The Devil Wears Prada, adapted from an unreadable (to me) book. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep elevate the formulaic elements and the comedic timing throughout is never fashionably late. Meryl might be too good—I think Miranda winds up as being far more sympathetic than Andrea's boyfriend, whose own work commitments seem to be taken for granted even as Andie's (admittedly taxing) duties are equated with selling out. In fact, her best gal pal is also insufferable, losing out in the charm department to her petty, manic co-worker. Overall, if I'm pissed about a movie's muddled message, that means it's at least a movie—totally expected less of this one. I hear the novel's author is struggling over Book Three (you didn't realize there was already a Book Two?); perhaps she should continue writing what she knows and do a lively read on book publishing and its ups and downs? Now who to cast as Judith Regan...?

 
 
Jun 21 2006
I Would Love Him And Hug Him And Squeeze Him And Pet Him Comments (0)

Sucke_1Only the absolute worst student and literally biggest idiot would embrace Bush and his policies...it had to be said. Bush looks like he can't wait to ship this guy off to die.