Howard Brookner & Madonna b-t-s on Bloodhounds of Broadway
I wrote to Brad Gooch several months ago to ask him about his late partner Howard Brookner as part of my Encyclopedia Madonnica research. Brookner directed the mostly unseen gem Bloodhounds of Broadway (1988), which he completed at the expense of his health—he was dying of AIDS, but pushed through the process in order to make the film he wanted to make. Sadly, the studio didn't like his film and ordered cuts that weakened it. He died before it hit the theaters.
Brad was kind enough to reply, and mentioned that all questions would be answered in his upcoming memoir, the just-released Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the '70s & the '80s (Harper, April 2015, $27.99). I'm not sure every Madonna question I had is answered herein, but those questions faded quickly as I read. Gooch has documented his life during an exciting and, as those of us who are a few years younger often forget (the '80s weren't always totally awesome), harrowing time in New York, and has done so with unselfconscious ease that makes his memoir a literary achievement more than a simple biography. It's also more than the bio of a guy who loved a guy who died; it's a bio of guys who loved guys who died, and a bio of New York City.
Gooch's years as an overthinking model, a sexual libertine and, though it wasn't called this then, a husband are beautifully communicated. It's short but impactful, like a poem you didn't realize you'd been waiting your whole life to read and stumbled across by chance. It's Just Kids (2010)-level work, and you should probably be reading it instead of this blog.
My own memoir is coming in a few months. It's not as good as this, nor is it really even comparable, nor should I even try to compare them. Still, I couldn't help thinking I'm glad I don't have anything this heart-breaking to write about, and that I'm humbled by the grace in Brad's insightful writing.
It seemed fitting to write about Michelangelo Signorile's book It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia & Winning True Equality (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2015, $27) in this post as well. Michelangelo all but invented the concept of outing (giving too many gay people something to fear and to use in order to capitulate to the status quo), but while he didn't invent gay activism, he probably reinvented it. His thoughts on where the struggle for gay rights stands are sobering and empowering. You can read it as a case of our rights being half-fulfilled or half-unfulfilled, but while his argument is that we could lose it if we don't keep working, it never comes across as defeatist or concern-trolly, two descriptors all too applicable to left-wing writing.
It's a kick-ass book for people who are thinking we've already kicked ass. We have some, a lot, but there's more left.