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28 posts from June 2007

Jun 29 2007
The Hell You Grey Comments (0)

I received a very credible and interesting behind-the-scenes report of what really led up to the Isaiah Washington/Patrick Dempsey fight on the Grey's Anatomy set, which in turn led to the ongoing implosion of Washington's career and credibility. I'm posting it because I trust the (second-hand) source and because it rings true:

"Isaiah had been complaining about not having a bigger story arc on the show. Other characters were being added and becoming more popular than his. He was particularly irked about McDreamy and his huge storylines and press attention. His general negativity was making the set unpleasant on a daily basis.

"TR told castmates, Shonda and other execs that he was thinking about coming out of the closet publicly. He asked their advice.

"Shonda thought it would be great and thought maybe they could incorporate it into his character, possibly making his character bi.

"Hearing this pissed Isaiah off more. Another big story arc for another white actor. He told Shonda he thought this was racist.

"Execs had wanted to drop him at this point, for attitude, but were afraid he’d spin it as racism.

"Kate was getting a spinoff and Isaiah was offered a bigger part on that, to appease him and get him off set. He declined, demanding his own show or a bigger part in this one. He accused them of racism again.

"Ultimately TR and Shonda decided it’d be a bigger statement to keep O’Malley straight even if TR came out.

"On a particularly asshole-ish day Isaiah goes at it with Patrick in front of everyone, and calls TR the fag word.

"TR comes out."

 
 
Jun 28 2007
Black, White & Grey Comments (2)

I'm so, so sick of the Isaiah Washington story, too, but Isaiah's not—he just keeps talking about it. He's clearly an OJ Simpson personality: never wrong. At least he hasn't murdered anyone. But Washington's got a long history of on-set altercations and unhappy co-workers, and he has never denied using the word "faggot" in an argument with Patrick Dempsey regarding T.R. Knight, who opted to come out of the closet in response to rumors about the ordeal.

And yet, Isaiah feels that his history as a gay advocate should exempt him from blame in the situation. But see, being a gay advocate does not buy you the right to use gay slurs without reprisal from gay people. Being a gay advocate and then angrily describing a co-worker as a faggot actually brings up the question of whether all your gay advocacy was just lip service.

Keith Boykin, who I usually agree with and do admire, has inexplicably taken up Washington's cause. It's unfortunate, but Boykin's (and Washington's) argument is centering on whether—when T.R. Knight said to Ellen DeGeneres that he had never been called a faggot to his face, and that he "was there" when the argument happened—Knight was lying. Washington said it, and he said it regarding Knight because the argument went along the lines of, "I'm not your little faggot like T.R.!" But Washington and Boykin are attempting to argue that Knight was not there, so...so what, is my question?


Washington self-sabotages...again.

First, if Knight was nowhere around, and if it were a private argument...how do we all know about it? I assume this was a shouted, heated argument that was witnessed by more than one person. "I was there" to me means on set, not sitting with the two who were arguing. "To my face" sounds pretty explicit in print, but hearing T.R. Knight use it in context to Ellen, it does not sound like he's asserting Knight looked at him and called him a faggot. At all.


This is no McGreevey—this is a genuine person.

If the argument then is that T.R. Knight is a careerist who's taken advantage of the press created by Washington's anger, am I supposed to get mad at a Hollywood actor who's career-minded? I don't buy that anyway because to imply that coming out of the closet in any way benefits Knight's career is as empty and offensive as the premise behind I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. It simply does not work that way.

I don't know why anyone would defend this legendary hothead whose behavior clearly indicates a propensity toward angry, abusive outbursts unless he is someone of whom one is a diehard fan, someone with whom one is personally acquainted or someone whose skin color trumps his demonstrably negative behavior.

Oh, there is another reason to defend Washington—freedom of speech! Yes, Bruce Willis has gone on record saying, "I hate to think we live in a time when you can get fired from your job because of what you say." Uh...there has never been a time when you couldn't, nor should there be. If your employer is unhappy with your speech on company time, why shouldn't they have the right to fire you? Especially in the context of making the workplace harmonious, productive and safe?

Isaiah

Why does it pain someone like Bruce Willis so much that someone could be fired for what they say, when it's perfectly legal in so many places to fire someone just for being gay?

Next up: Washington will get his Paris Hilton moment chatting with Larry King. I would hope that T.R. Knight could be allowed to call in. More useful would be if Patrick Dempsey would come forward with his version of events and either confirm or deny the points brought out by Washington.

 
 
Jun 26 2007
Godlessness Begins At Home Comments (1)

When Elizabeth Edwards called in to confront Ann Coulter not only about calling her husband, John Edwards, a "fag" but about making fun of the moment the Edwardses' son died, it was shocking how ill prepared Coulter was to defend her nastiness. Even Chris Matthews seems suddenly appalled to be sitting across from her, and the Republican crowd cheers Edwards on when she makes her point that political discourse, especially for young people just getting into it, needs to be raised and not lowered.

This could be a defining moment for Edwards, Coulter and Republicans. We'll see how much play it gets.

EdwardThis MSNBC poll doesn't add up...maybe a little Ann Coulter-style voter fraud is at play? She voted twice?

 
 
Jun 25 2007
Proud, Mary? Comments (1)

Whenever Gay Pride rolls around, newspapers and news shows invariably focus on the most outrageous, flamboyant participants, and generic gays gripe that we're not all clowns. It's an annoyingly reliable development every year—the homophobic coverage, the homophobic (even from homos!) reaction to the coverage.

I can understand both sides in that the news is always going to cover whatever is most unusual—that is what catches the reader's consumer's eye, and "out of the ordinary" is what makes something news. Gay people who are not so colorful take the coverage personally because they have already had to struggle with hammering out their public and private identities to their own satisfaction, so any hint that an identity unlike their own is being presented as universal sets them off like a bottle rocket. (This is also why gay people will walk across a minefield in order to be able to criticize a gay movie or TV show they don't like—everything is personal.)

GiulioMy friend and his partner get down to business.

But instead of hating on the drag queens—who, after all, are responsible for gay lib to begin with—I like my friend's approach. In Rome, he and his partner dressed as they see themselves and how they'd like to be seen by others, in shirts and ties. If everyone just dresses and behaves true to their own inclinations, that's really the important goal. The media will eventually be forced to catch up because at some point, gay men in drag and gay men in business drag will no longer be out of the ordinary. And that's when we'll have to rely on other attributes to be make news and to be extraordinary.

 
 
The Sting Comments (2)

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I attended a special presentation of about 30 minutes of Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld's DreamWorks film about a bee that falls for a human, breaking all the rules and really stirring up the hive. Yes, it's got lots of buzz. Had to say that.

Normally, I don't write about anything that is work-related, but this event was pretty removed from the focus of my job and was after hours. Plus, stuff happened.

ShowimageaspxFirst, it was about Bee Movie, but the room had AAA-list stars—Jeffrey Katzenberg did the video presentation, Seinfeld himself was in the house a few rows away from where we sat, and cast members Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick and Chris Rock joined him to briefly discuss the four-year project. If that wasn't eye-popping enough, we sat directly in front of a radiant and supportively giggly Sarah Jessica Parker, who arrived with oodles of eye contact and Anderson Cooper at her side. I'm not normally starstruck, but in this case, I was at least struck by the rare opportunity to be so close to so many household names.

Afterward, they all joined us for a reception, a funny sight—SJP and Renée in signature cocktail dresses, styled to the nines, we journalists in shorts, jeans and flip-flops. I could easily have spoken to any one of them, passed by them all and received some nods...is Matthew Broderick cruising me?...it was surreal, I tell ya.

Later, a stink arose about an answer Seinfeld gave to a question about bee society, which he declared to be free of most common crimes, including rape. An anti-rape group (are there pro-rape groups?) was disgusted by his joke and complained. It was a great example of how any time there is a celebrity-studded gathering, the media needs to cook up a controversy in order to have something to write about. The rape joke was hilarious. It wasn't making light of rape, it was making light of the idea that someone would make light of rape. Is rape off limits for humor? Please. We can joke about murder and death, but rape is somehow more protected? Try watching Reno 911 sometime. Seinfeld's joke was funny and didn't cross any lines. I've always felt that when it comes to Seinfeld's humor, it's better to lay back and enjoy the ride.

Renee210607rex_468x905_2The skinny on Hollywood's hottest.

The other comment that came out of this event was the observation that Zellweger is too skinny. Granted, she has a totally unique, thin-based way of walking...kind of like a cat on her hind legs. But she's been thin forever (except for when she was zaftig for Bridget Jones), so it's not breaking news. This kind of news is what's breaking news, so to speak, this ungallant need to print and sell the unkind comments we all say or think in private from time to time.

The most noteworthy part of the whole event was when Seinfeld rather savagely pointed out that he'd used Ray Liotta in the movie for a Newman's Own send-up because he was "at the point of his career" where it would be believable, and Sarah Jessica murmured, "No...that's mean..." under her breath.

I was there and I don't get the observations that emerged. The stories that came out of the perfectly fun, lovely, uncontroversial event were simply too cruel for the room.

 
 
Jun 23 2007
Heal Thyself Comments (0)

It's been a medical week.

First, I finally caught The Year Of Magical Thinking, the one-woman show based on Joan Didion's best-selling account of her reaction to her daughter's mortal illness and her husband's sudden death. I wasn't as impressed by the play as I was by the book. It was less a play than a recital, or a reading—at one point, literally so. The show has been updated to include events that occurred subsequent to the book's publication, which I found both interesting and somehow upsetting, too complete. The presentation was minimal to the point of being quite a challenge—but shoot me if I ever become one of the queens in front of us who rolled their eyes at each other when the show ended—and, as Gaza's my witness, Vanessa Redgrave was unspectacular.

Photo4"She asked, 'Am I going to make it?'"

I know. She's given some truly amazing performances in her time. In this case, I felt she was saying the words, sometimes with very unnatural breaks. It's possible Joan Didion speaks exactly this way. But it didn't work for me entirely.

I did still enjoy the show despite its static nature. It intelligently retained the most powerful observations from the book, and those words are worth a thousand visuals. When Redgrave returned to the stage to bow, she was absolutely radiant and seemed totally different than she'd seemed a moment before, suggesting to me she'd been in character the whole time, even if it had seemed like the character had been lost in the actor.

Next, I had my first MRI, for a rotator cuff ailment. Now I know it stands for "Matthew Rettenmund's Internment." I knew in advance it was considered an unpleasant experience and not fun for the claustrophobic, but I've never had a strong sensitivity to small spaces so figured I'd sail through it. I arrived at the NYU satellite facility at 5:30 p.m., filled out some papers and then waited...and waited...and waited. One other guy was there before me, and two others waited behind me, and the thuggish white dude in a ponytail who acted as the receptionist listened to rap music and talked loudly on the phone to friends about what pizza they'd eat later and how filthy the Chinese are in preparing their food. "They, like, sneeze into their hands, man," he said from the tiny office he'd retreated to for a false sense of privacy. And then he sneezed into his own hand before returning my insurance card.

Mri_press1I didn't get called in until 6:45, and could hardly understand the kindly little old lady doctor (Israeli?) thanks to her thick accent and exasperated speech. I gathered I was to strip to my underwear and socks, don a gown, secure my belongings in a locker and sit right out in the open in a waiting room like that until she returned. This genius system safeguarded my jeans and sneakers while taking my dignity for granted. An annoying man had gone in before me, a lanky dude who made weird small talk with everyone (loudly pointing out a penis-shaped hot dog cooker in New York Press to the attendant), and he strutted past me when he was done. In spite of my closed eyes, he felt the need to say, "You should take drugs before you get into that thing, man!" I did like his red briefs.

As I stepped up onto the MRI machine, I realized I wasn't going to sail through this. It's not enclosed, but it's close. I was given an emergency plunger to squeeze, a pair of old-fashioned headphones blasting Dido was placed on my head and I was informed it would be ultra loud and take 25 minutes. As I was mechanically slid into the tube, I remembered wedging myself under a low dresser in my childhood home and becoming stuck, screaming for help. "Don't breathe too deeply, keep it shallow," the technician had warned, "and don't move." I was strapped in, the top of the chamber was directly above me and no amount of daydreaming kept me from wanting to gulp air.

What if there's a blackout? Could I escape? Is this what it would be like if I were buried alive? Wow, if I were buried alive, there's, like, no way I could will myself asleep to lessen the mental anguish.

Finally, 25 minutes later, I was removed. I was told, "You did very well. You didn't move at all." Of course not—I was immobile and barely breathing. If I had big boobs I'd be starring in a major Hollywood movie.

As I left, I got to see the cute, preppy straight guy I'd been next to in his gown. Nice legs.

Sickoposter425Thoughts of how much it would all cost (I'd stressed that I needed to stay in-network after having to pay over $700 for an annual physical) drove me to see Michael Moore's SiCKO, which released a week early in New York. The theater was jam-packed with a truly diverse cross-section of New Yorkers, including the elderly (for the first time, I witnessed handicapped seating used by the handicapped), the young, the gay, the straight, men and women. It was sold out. So much for the ill effects of illegal downloading that's been occurring.

I loved the film, which is no surprise; I have loved all of Moore's films. I tend to agree with him on most topics, though he's a bit too "fuck the system at all costs" for me. For example, in his film—a damning indictment of the healthcare system in our country—he doesn't hesitate to criticize Hillary Clinton for having been silenced on her one-time pet issue, implying she's been bought off by the healthcare conglomerates. Even if it's a fair criticism, I'd probably have shied away from it, seeing her as vastly preferable to any Republican. But that's me. And this is him. And he's right to criticize her.

A_wmoore_0528A French doctor explains why state-run healthcare is just what the doctor ordered.

The film gives a voice not only to Moore, but to many people who have insurance but who have been failed by the system—on purpose. Horror stories of people being forced to give up limbs, suffer in silence and refuse life-saving treatments, all over money, do not strike you as worst-case scenarios, but as skimming the surface. Moore uses Canada, France, England and—most controversially—Cuba as shining examples of how universal healthcare works. As he makes fun of our government's history of demonizing Cuba, it begins to feel like he's gone too far into a political area, where he will lose potential viewers. But in the end, I felt the point was not to hold up Fidel Castro as a great man—in fact, he notes that Castro is mainly hated by the U.S. because he replaced the other despot, the one who was in our pocket—but to point out that even a shithole like Cuba has amazing healthcare. It's damned embarrassing that an island with cars from the ’50s has better healthcare, longer lifespans and a lower infant mortality rate than ours, the greatest country on earth.

One highlight of the film was a member of Old Labour in England saying that if a government can always find money to make war, why can't it find money to help people—this drew cheers, and it wasn't even about Bush, it was in reference to post-WWII England. Another was during the widely discussed trip to Cuba that Moore made with some 9/11 rescue workers who have shamefully been denied coverage despite their selfless acts and despite Bush's phony talk about how heroes are always repaid. In Cuba, after having been denied entry to Gitmo (where the worst terrorists in the world are given universal healthcare), Moore and his crew of sickos are greeted warmly by firefighters who see the workers as brethren. Is it propaganda? Remove Cuba from the situation and it's still just fucking shameful that we don't take care of ourselves and each other.

Something I disagree with Moore about is his eternal optimism that Americans never fail to lend a helping hand and are a fair and loving lot. I see where he's coming from—he uses footage of candlelight vigils, Image2833111community-wide missing-child searches and food hand-outs as examples—but in my experience, Americans are hopelessly selfish. There are three things only keeping us from universal healthcare—the first is the fact that the higher-ups in healthcare would have to settle for being millionaires instead of multi-multi-millionaires under a universal system (and so will spend some of those bucks to keep us all brainwashed), but the second is the fact that most Americans are so bitterly judgmental that the spectre of a "black welfare mom" getting free healthcare keeps us from throwing our support to that kind of system. We are hung up on deserving things, earning them, even things that in my opinion should be guaranteed—healthcare, shelter, food. What do I care if I pay taxes and someone sick or homeless, perhaps even due to their own personal failings, benefits from it? My tax money is already woefully abused; it could not wasted any more egregiously.

The third reason we're trapped in healthcare hell is that there is a uniquely American compulsion for gambling. The American Dream is a gamble, isn't it? Even though most people will merely make ends meet their whole lives, we love the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could somehow become billionaires if we're smart, industrious and lucky. Instead of security for all and prosperity for many, we'd rather roll the dice while embracing struggle for many and obscene wealth for a few.

You don't have to be a commie to embrace SiCKO's central argument, but you'd have to be sick in the head not to: In America, our motto is, "At least you halve your health."

 
 
Jun 22 2007
Perez Is Burning Comments (0)

As I read at Joe.My.God., it seems like Perez is burning and nobody—not even his fickle fans—is willing to give the brother a good hosing. More seem to be interested in adding a little gasoline to the mix, like NY Blade editor Kevin Naff, who writes Perez a pretty nasty, pre-mortem obit.

Perez

Naff’s central point, that the Web has made people think everything’s free, can not be disproved. I’m fascinated with copyright issues professionally and personally (my blog), and am frequently confronted by the decision of whether to use an image with the idea that mine is a legally “fair use,” or to use it unfairly, knowing that if asked, I would simply remove it—no harm done. Not exactly “no” harm. Maybe no harm. But once it’s down, it’s down, and no one will sue over a momentary breach. It could represent photographers’ rights being pecked away at until nothing remains, but the danger is not sufficiently appreciable when you realllly wanna use that cool picture you found floating around in cyberspace.

But I take issue with some of Naff’s editorial.

First, the characterization that bloggers are largely desperate to be considered journalists is questionable. Frankly, in the age of FOX News, infotainment and tabloid seepage, journalism has lost its prestige. Naff himself (accidentally) implies that the main perk of being a journalist is to be “credentialed as such for events.” I’m not denying that there are bloggers who long to be taken seriously and introduced to their idols—Perez has been flamed for being too nice to his namesake and Trent at PinkIsTheNewBlog has caught hell for going easy on the celebs who’ve posed for pictures with him or invited him to their parties. But everyone likes free swag, including real journalists. I will never forget the scene at Epcot in Orlando when I was invited to a private event in honor of the maiden voyage of the Disney Wonder. The park was closed for the evening and there was free international cuisine at every turn. Watching journos fight for lobster leaves a lasting impression.

I think Naff believes journalists’ rules make them ethically superior to bloggers. (BTW, I don’t include myself as a serious blogger in that it’s not my primary means of support, and I’m not really a journalist because I use acronyms like “BTW”). Certainly an outlet like NY Blade is going to be more stringent than, say, WWTDD. But it’s hard to see the difference between the two when Naff’s own editorial kicks off with: “Perhaps Perez should do his blogging from a gym instead of a coffee shop. Just a thought.” Sure, Perez is far more savage on his site, but the point is that he functions as an anti-PR, anti-rules entity. And to his credit, he talks—a lot—about his own imperfections. When Perez posts crazy-vicious things, it might be hurtful or even flat out inaccurate, but it’s clean because he’s never identified as a journalist.

If editors of newspapers spew derogatory bile, then the bloggers have become journalists—not by ascending to their imaginary ethical heights, but by succeeding to the point where journalists are descending to the bloggers’ imaginary depths.

Naff & Perez have more in common than he thinks. Both are outspokenly queer and call a gay a gay—Naff has heroically outed Shepard Smith and Perez has outed, well, everyone else.

Naffkevintagline_2Plus, fuck you, Kevin Naff, for feeling the need to advertise that you have a gym body that we'd all totally tap, and that anyone who doesn’t should. A lot of your readers don’t. Perhaps because of too many hours spent sitting around reading Perez, and not reading newspapers. The “fuck you” is more playful than outraged; it’s just that he’s made me self-conscious of what to do for lunch now.

I really like NY Blade and admire what Naff does with it. I am ambivalent about Perez, but I don’t revile him—and I read him and other cutthroat celebrity sites if only because they offer something that Naff mistakenly believes is connected to Perez’s woes: karma. The real reason people have a wrong-headed, ridiculous, seething hatred for stars is not jealousy, but contempt for the patently false aura that comes from aggressive publicity. Rich? Famous? Beautiful? Yes, these things do make people a bit envious of stars. But what kills us is the bullshit, the fake marriages, the fake smiles, the fake fabulousness. It creates tension.

It also creates tension that many journalists go along with publicity because if they ask the wrong questions or make the wrong assertions, it ices them out of access.

Back to “desperately” wanting to be “credentialed,” and back to karma catching up.

I think Naff’s point about copyrights and copywrongs is a hugely important issue, one that at some point will come to a head and will very possibly change the free-wheeling Internet as we know it. I wish he’d focused on that, because he’d have been as right as he often is, and you can’t say you’re prettier than Perez and higher-minded than him at the same time without being wrong about one or the other.

 
 
Seize The Gay Comments (0)

Nice review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for Boy Culture, finally opening in Pittsburgh...today!

Boy_culture_pittsburgh_2