33 posts categorized "BOOK REVIEW"
I own dozens of biographies; they're my favorite kind of book to read, and increasingly, due to the decreasing amount of time on my hands, they're becoming the dominant type that I actually get through.
The best biographies are the ones on subjects about whom I thought I knew everything, but about whom I learn something new on virtually every page.
I recently found a bio that I enjoyed in this way—Sal Mineo: A Biography (Crown, $25.99) by Michael Gregg Michaud, about the late actor and one-time teen heartthrob Sal Mineo. Mineo rose to fame as the tragic Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, briefly became a singing idol, had uneven success as a dramatic actor and was brutally stabbed to death 35 years ago today during a botched robbery while he was in the middle of a potential professional comeback.
Mineo is now something of a gay icon; he never came out (he died in 1976), but his homosexuality was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood and common knowledge among at least some of his fans.
One thing I found so compelling about Sal Mineo: A Biography was Michaud's unsensational approach, which is hard to do while at the same time confirming Mineo, who was close pals with David Cassidy, fucked Bobby Sherman.
Despite these tidbits and despite Mineo's sexual kinks (he apparently harbored a fetish for briefs and seemed to be especially attracted to barely legal/barely illegal types), his life is recounted in a firmly matter-of-fact way that starts out feeling a bit cut-and-paste in its rigorous detail but that quickly becomes diaristic. Is it possible to write someone else's diary for him? Because I felt every aspect of Mineo's life had been explored and recorded, presenting a full picture of a thoughtful, iconoclastic, troubled, loving man bursting with creativity and ambition.
In his pursuit of the whole story on Mineo, Michaud spent years persuading the late icon's two most important intimates—actors Jill Haworth (left, who created the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway and who died of natural causes last month unexpectedly) and Courtney Burr. Thanks to winning their trust, Mineo's life is captured with the help of his most important male and female lovers, and not with the breathless adulation of a fan or the judgmental cynicism of a skeptic. In that regard, it's a "bi"-ography unparalleled by any others I've read.
Mineo daringly posed fully nude in the early '60s for Harold Stevenson's The New Adam
The book is also a fascinating look at a gay man's mid-life reassessment of his purpose, and a heart-breaking reminder to leave nothing undone and to regret nothing one's done.
I reached out to the author with some questions and he kindly found the time to reply. Keep reading for the full Q&A...
As of midnight tonight, it will be exactly five years since my first post. It's hard to imagine it's been that long, and a lot's changed—the tone and subject matter are different, how often I post, my limits (no nudity in a couple of years due to ad constraints). I've devoted a crazy amount of time and money and energy to this blog for a very small financial return (you couldn't guess low enough), but it's always rewarding to have this forum with which to express myself, keep my writing ability fluid, perhaps influence a couple of people here and there, share obsessions with strangers (in both senses of the word) and learn new things.
Take That's Howard...can you believe this happened onstage at a pop concert?
Here are some of the posts that were most important to Boy Culture's history. For the uninitiated, some of the oldest ones refer to Boy Culture, the movie made of my novel; I started the blog at the time Boy Culture was being filmed as a way to keep people informed of the progress...and it all snowballed from there.
Some of these posts are milestones when it comes to the hits they provided but most are filled with original writing and/or photography and video and are just the posts of which I'm proudest. I hope you'll take some time to click on them and send their links around to others—and some time is what you'll need...
FROM BOY TO MAN: BC B.C. (2007): The entire history of my novella, novel and movie Boy Culture; might be my ultimate post.
From '07, one of my faves. Old iPhones were better because they were worse.
"Your pictures suck" (2008): An art critic attacks me, but not without sustaining some hits in return.
BOY ON FILM (2006): An account of the NYC launch party for Boy Culture as it played the TriBeCa Film Fest.
FRIENDS AND "FAMILY" (2006): The movie version of Boy Culture hits Chicago.
RAPT PUPIL (2006): The final night of Outfest with Boy Culture; I was fat but on the other hand got to meet Bryan Singer.
DRAWN TOGETHER (2008): How my desire to draw related to my secret desire. One of my absolute favorite posts.
BURNING MAN (2007): Tribute to my late high school friend and first romance.
AN OBSESSION IS BORN (2009): One of my best posts about my obsession with...obsession.
ILLINOIS DEATH TRIP (2007): Ruminations on death while revisiting a past home, and the past.
PASSING BY (2008): Mourning the loss of a person I only met once.
HAVEN'T WE MET? (2010): Celebrating my time with someone I've only met once—Madonna.
Yesterday, mid-day, I received an e-mail from Maripol, Madonna's first stylist and the architect of her "Boy Toy" look. It contained an invite to a book signing and one to a book party, both for a book I didn't know existed: Little Red Riding Hood (Damiani, $60), an incredible collection of Maripol's original Polaroids, correspondence, ephemera and sketches.
When I teased her for the late notice and secrecy of her project, she said, "I have no publicist and your e-mail was buried!" Not that I was mad—she's French, she's fabulous and she's a Downtown original; advance notice is so square.
The signing was held at Bookmarc, a Marc Jacobs tome store formerly known as Biography Bookshop. Lots of trendy fashionistas attended, and Maripol looked smashing in a fluorescent orange bolero and fluorescent yellow bracelets. She happily signed the first copy sold to moi. I got to meet a publicist for Jacobs (incredibly good-looking...were you expecting a homely workhorse?) and relied on a real photographer to use my amateur camera for my picture with the author.
The book is beautifully designed by Townhouse (Anton Aparin & Nick Vogelson) and contains a conversation with Jacobs, but its chief attraction is its chaotic, dense visual impact. Inspired by an image of Maripol in an award-winning Red Riding Hood Halloween costume, the book documents her early life in Morocco, her Downtown disco dolly days, her relationship with Edo Bertoglio (father of her son, the photographer who shot Madonna's first, abandoned album cover), the film Downtown 81, her emergence as a wildly creative stylist and designer, her Maripolitan shop and her amazing tits.
Even if you've never heard of Maripol, flipping through her book won't be an unfamiliar experience—her friends and subjects are a who's-who of Mondo Manhattan, including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry and an eye-popping assortment of one-time beauties who are the essence of the '80s.
I read a book! Forgive me...it's been a while. And I never made it through any of the political books stacked by my bed. But I did get through Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls About Duran Duran (Dutton, $25.95), a memoir disguised as a American Top 40 (or vice versa).
Sheffield, best known for his gig at Rolling Stone and for his previous work Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, tells his personal coming-of-age story using 25 diverse pop songs, starting with "Our Lips are Sealed" by The Go-Go's and ending with the titular band's "All She Wants Is." It's such a clever construct, one I'd love to nick as I suspect waxing nostalgic about Exposé and Debbie Harry and, yes, Madonna would pull a lot of memories out of me. It (mostly) works.
"Should I let you in?"
The first album I ever bought—not counting a TV-offered compilation that I wanted for "Disco Duck" as a kid—was Beauty and the Beat by The Go-Go's, even with that unnecessary apostrophe. To this day, it's one of the best albums I own, filled with inspired West Coast pop tunes that flirt with punk and get to third base with the '60s girl-group sound, like bubblegum stuffed with razorblades.
When Belinda Carlisle peeled off to go solo, I dutifully followed. I think Belinda is a terrific album in its own right, even if Carlisle minus her ragtag rocker-chick cohorts had become a bit tight and less fun once she reinvented herself as Ann-Margret Jr. I really didn't love some of her other solo stuff, but stand-outs like "Circle in the Sand" kept me interested. I simply loved The Go-Go's, and that, too, kept me hooked on their lead singer through her solo ups and downs—the whole "we're a band, not just a singer" thing worked better for me on The Go-Go's than on Blondie.
But reading her memoir Lips Unsealed (Crown, June 1), I felt about as connected to the proceedings as if I'd never heard of Carlisle—I'd thought of myself as a bit of a fan (I was pretty excited to meet her when she was plugging her satisfying Voila collection here in NYC), but it turns out I truly had no clue who this person was or what she'd gone through in the '80s. Or that she'd still been going through it in the '90s. And for half the '00s, for fuck's sake.
Mizer's first model, Forrester MillardMy friend and former co-worker Dian Hanson (pictured), she of The Big Penis Book infamy, is still documenting penises, this time the quaint, often flaccid ones attached to game trade shot by the late, legendary beefcake photographer Bob Mizer. Bob's World: The Life and Boys of AMG's Bob Mizer (Taschen, $59.99) is an oversized hardcover of the variety Taschen's famous for that sports nearly 300 pages and an excellent supplemental DVD filled with Mizer's at times innocent, at times seedy images documenting one gay man's power to persuade and underpay an army of sexually available guys to act out his own personal fantasies of masculinity, domination and exhibitionism.
I wonder if he had an "agreeable personality"?
Mizer (pictured, who died in 1992) was one-of-a-kind—able to make a living from his various fetishes, he used his mother as his business partner and diaried most aspects of his life. Even his models were exhaustively catalogued, using a cryptic code, reproduced and translated in the book, whose symbols pretended to stand for things like "agreeable personality" or "petty thief," but which really stood for things like "can be fucked + v. good fuck," "on dope" and "will suck cock."
Mizer's compound—illustrated by a fascinating aerial photograph taken during police surveillance in the early '60s—was sort of a precursor to Neverland with its numerous studios, its pool (the scene of unimaginable action over the years) and its collection of monkeys. This kind of intimate info is what distinguishes the book from a simple overview of Mizer's photography. I found the imagery almost (but not quite) secondary to the amazing memorabilia reproduced (Hanson had unfettered access to all of Mizer's personal effects), such as pages from his childhood and adult diaries, flyers and pictures of Bob with early boyfriends, and the lovingly conducted interviews with luminaries such as David Hockney, David "Old Reliable" Hurles, Mizer's heir Wayne Stanley, artist Jack Pierson and others.
I find Mizer's photography to be much more varied than that of some other beefcake photographers. He definitely had a guileless point-and-shoot style, and yet there is a world of difference between his early, clean black-and-white shots of beautiful models like 19-year-old Joe Dallesandro (pictured), and his eventual garishly colorful shots of shiny-bodied drifters whose primary talents seemed to dangle between their legs.
Nothing less than an oral history of gay desire, self-indulgence, ingenuity and creativity in the 20th Century, Bob's World is our world—and welcome to it.
I'm not sure what it is that attracts gay men to jobs requiring the coddling of divas, but we seem to do it often and well. I have more of an idea of why gay men love gossip, which we also do often and well. We're also probably inordinately psyched by our own life stories, but that's just because we're so fassscinating.
I was sent this book a few months ago and kept meaning to post something about it. Better late than you'll never eat lunch in this town again, right?
I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer's excellent book Eating Animals—which has as much to say about people (who are literally eating animals) as it does about the creatures we do and do not devour.
I've always eaten meat, and aside from occasional troubling stories about the humanity, for lack of a more accurate term, of pigs or of the presumably isolated abuses visited on cows and chickens who are destined to be din-din, my past concept of eating meat vs. going vegetarian was mired more in thoughts of taste, weight loss and health than in animal welfare. I would describe myself as being an animal lover, and as being fascinated by and respectful of the animals I don't particularly love, but as having had a sort of resignation that people are going to eat meat, always have and always will, so whatever needs to happen between the cow goes moo to pass the ketchup needs to happen.
Over the years, my thoughts on animals and our relationship to them have changed somewhat. I always thought of real fur as flamboyantly unnecessary (but still do wear leather and own a lambskin rug) and while finding the antics of PETA extreme have rooted for the serious animalistas who've soiled the mink coats of the rich with blood.
I thought a lot harder about animals once I got my two dogs. I grew up with a cat and a dog, so it's not like I didn't already love the darn things. But almost immediately upon taking home the tiny, guinea-piggish Shih Tzu whom we would name Hyphen and Sash, it seemed clear to me how bizarre it is that we care (deeply) about some animals and don't care (deeply) about others.
It makes many of us enraged to think of people eating cats and dogs, yet pigs don't get a pass despite being so close to humans in their anatomy and seemingly as smart and filled with personality as anything any human's ever taken in, fed and loved.
"In transcribing her letters, I found a woman who was far from a 'staunch character,' as she referred to herself during one scene in Grey Gardens. She now appeared more like a woman who was very much in touch with modern times, both politically and socially, who cared deeply for those close to her."
—Gretchen Hughes in Letters of Little Edie Beale: Grey Gardens and Beyond
Ages ago, I did an exhaustive post that included a lengthy review of Walter Newkirk's delightful MemoraBEALEia, all about his unique connection with Little Edie Beale following an interview he did with her to promote the Grey Gardens documentary back when he was a student at Rutgers.