Twenty-one-year-old Ross Lynch, who starred as a crushworthy musician on Disney Channel's Austin & Ally for five years and who headed up two Teen Beach Movie installments for the network, isn't on the typical Mouse House trajectory of some of his forebears.
The Teen Beach boys: Ross Lynch & Garrett Clayton (GIFs via Disney Channel)
When I met him back in 2012, he struck me as a potential future Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake, displaying effortless dance skills and bursting into song while I attempted to corral him for an interview for the teen mag I founded. He also had mega-charm, enough to stick out among a cast of talents that included similarly charismatic Garrett Clayton.
Lynch is transformed on the big screen as Dahmer (Image via FilmRise)
Instead of a solo journey, Lynch surprised me by eschewing the Hilary/Miley/Demi/Selena route, focusing on music with his mostly-family rock band R5 and, now, by choosing a movie role that represents a 180 from his perky Disney character Austin Moon, that of a teenage Jeffrey Dahmer before his serial-killing days in the well-received My Friend Dahmer.
It's a disturbing film, one that could best be described as coming-of-rage.
In the film, which is in theaters now, he brings to life a pathologically awkward teenage boy whose family trouble, social-outcast status and verboten, unannounced homosexuality make him strangely relatable ... until you remind yourself that the character would, in real life, grow up to kill and eat a bunch of innocent dudes.
I spoke with Lynch about this unique moment in his life and career, when everybody's niece knows him and more adults are getting the memo every day, as well as all about the bold-as-hell movie that is helping to put him on the grown-up map ...
Boy of my dreams It's been another year of Boy Culture, and that makes 12. I've spent a decade and change of my life posting think-pieces, don't-think pieces, sexy butts, sexy bulges, infuriated protests, news of the day, news of the gay, surreptitious photos, self-promotion, self-deprecation, humor, pathos, dead celebrities, celebrities you thought were dead and what evidence of what passes for my powers of observation. I've acquired fans and anti-fans and momentarily interested passers-by.
The first blogs I encountered (I was a late bloomer) were Perez Hilton and Pink Is the New Blog ... and I barely understood how to read them. The concept of scrolling down for information, which is now becoming passé, was so new to me, they just looked like a jumble of information.
As I became accustomed to the idea, I noticed Towleroad — a specifically gay blog. Color me inspired, and by the end of 2005, when I was living in misery in a temporary apartment across the street from the dream apartment into which I would soon move (and eventually lose), I spent my free time figuring out Typepad. I was off-the-charts thrilled when I became adept at uploading images and formatting captions. I had previously experimented with Blogger, but now I was in business. Posting some old Blogger pieces and plunging ahead with all my thoughts on Madonna's new album Confessions on a Dance Floor, Boy Culture was born.
Mainly, I thought I could promote the theatrical release of the movie of the same name, which Allan Brocka had co-adapted and directed from my debut novel (new edition coming). I was proud of the movie and wanted to help get the word out, so I posted about each screening in-between quirky, topical entries on music, movies, Madonna and me. Just this past year, I used my blog (and Kickstarter) to help get the word out about the sequel to that movie — to which you can still donate here. I would also eventually lean on Boy Culture to help create awareness of Encyclopedia Madonnica 20, which was a huge hit.
Bailey & Barbato's oeuvre is not all about RuPaul's Drag Race ... but this interview is! (Image via VH1)
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato founded their now world-famous World of Wonder production company in 1991, taking on a slew of documentaries, reality TV and scripted films.
The onetime couple — they have described their journey as de-merging from romantic, never wavering creatively — and longtime best friends are responsible for some 1,600 TV episodes and series you know and love or know and hate or hate to love or love to hate or know you love: Tori & Dean: Inn Love (2007-2012), the Million Dollar Listing franchise (2006-) and so many more.
The films of Bailey and Barbato represent a peculiarly queer perspective, one so badly needed in an arena where people are coming up with ideas like remaking shitty Brendan Fraser mummy movies starring shitty Tom Cruise. If you've never seen their The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) about the late televangelist-turned-LGBTQ alley Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, do; and their Party Monster (2003), about the murderer Michael Alig, is an early '00s must.
How I love ya, my dear, old Tammy ...
On Sunday, June 11, Bailey and Barbato's Menendez: Blood Brothers, a smart, stylish look back at the notorious Menendez Brothers slayings, airs on Lifetime (my review here).
Myko Olivier as Erik Menendez in Bailey and Barbato's Menendez: Blood Brothers (Image via Lifetime)
I spoke to these queer cinema icons about their most famous baby: RuPaul's Drag Race (2009-) ...
Carleton Carpenter in fall 2012 (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)
“You know, you and I are gonna be singin' 'Aba Daba Honeymoon' when we're both a hundred years old!”
(GIF via MGM/Matthew Rettenmund/Tumblr @carletoncarpenterfanatic)
So said the late, great Debbie Reynolds to her duet partner and movie co-star Carleton Carpenter over 60 years ago, and while their final performance of the tune together was in 2012 (when she was 80 and he 86), she was right in that their indelible rendition of that old chestnut in the 1950 film Two Weeks with Love was prominently mentioned in every one of Debbie's adoring obituaries. That unforgettable performance only happened thanks to the ingenuity of “Carp,” who recalls duping his boss into thinking it had been his own idea.
Last Live Perf of “Aba Daba Honeymoon” at 5:21:
“That was a whole big ruse,” the 90-year-old actor recalls in a phone interview from his Warwick, New York, home. “I found that sheet music in a pile on top of a piano on the set of the movie, dug that out and thought it would be fun. I put that sheet of music back underneath the whole pile with a little corner hanging out and I waited about two and a half days until Jack Cummings, who was the producer, was on his way in. I got Deb over and I pulled this out and there was someone playing the piano there and I said, 'Don’t bother with any of the beginning stuff, just start here,' and we jabbered away. He came in and walked over to where we were singing and he said, 'You know —' it was hard to keep a straight face! — 'That would be a good number for the two of you…' And I said with the straightest face ever, 'Reallllly?' The rest is history.”
Carpenter & Reynolds performing “Aba Daba Honeymoon” at a Busby Berkeley Thalians tribute in 1971
Carpenter, not a household name except in the households of true cinephiles, has nonetheless made history more than once in his 70-plus-year career, starting with the unprecedented chart success of “Aba Daba Honeymoon” and continuing with his work in early TV, spectacular runs on Broadway and Off- (he took over the lead in the original production of The Boys in the Band), his nonchalant handling of his bisexuality and, now, the publication of his detail-packed memoir, The Absolute Joy of Work: From Vermont to Broadway, Hollywood and Damn Near 'Round the World (BearManor Media, $24.95).
With typical humility, Carpenter chalks up his success to luck and pursuing an acting career with the naïveté of a kid from Vermont who showed up in Times Square 100% convinced he was right for the part — any part, some part.
He says he got his first Broadway show, Bright Boy, fresh off the bus one frigid January in 1944 at age 17. He picked up Actor's Cues for a nickel, went somewhere to grab a bite and found his calling. “They were looking for 17-to-20-year-old guys for a play and I thought, 'I’ll just go get that after lunch.' I got over there and they said it was on the top floor and when I got up there, you heard them rumble from the room and the door opened and the guy was leading somebody out the door and I was there and he said, 'You’re too old!' and took the other actor down. A guy sitting there grabbed the bottom of my heavy winter coat and said, 'They told me the same thing six months ago… and I’m still reading for the part!'”
Carpenter & Michael Dreyfus in Bright Boy (Image via Carleton Carpenter)
That did it. “Off came the coat and I scrunched down behind several people and smoked three or four cigarettes and probably 35 or 40 minutes later the same guy with the slate board in his hand came over and said, 'Hey, you’re next.' I went in and read five different parts and they gave me the show and told me to go into the other room and read it, so I did. Then they told me they wanted me in the show, but they didn’t know what part, and could I come in the next morning? I left and was practically on top of Grand Central, so I picked up my bag and headed for my mother’s second cousin’s place. He asked me how I did and I said, 'I think I have a show.' He said, 'That’s nice.'”
About 10 days ago, I was on a phoner with Justin Kelly and Christian Slater to discuss their film King Cobra (my review here), which opened in NYC last week and opens in L.A. today.
Writer/director Justin Kelly on the optics that he favors non-uplifting queer stories after 2015's I Am Michael (about an ex-gay activist) and now King Cobra:
Um, yes! [Laughs] Fair enough. No, for me, it's about telling really interesting stories with the kind of fascinating characters that we don't see as often. And to me, it's not about, like, representing gay characters in a bad way at all, it's just about the story and about the characters, and who they sleep with is secondary ... which is I think how it should be. So it's not as if I go out there and try to find these non-uplifting stories at all. [Laughs] It's something where if there's an implication that it's a bad thing, I just have to agree to disagree with people because I feel it's more progressive to approach queer stoires in this way, where you're not only focusing on coming-out stories.
The short answer is I read about these stories and I feel like I wanna understand why these characters did what they did. In Michael's case, how an anti-Christian gay activist can become an anti-gay Christian activist—I mean, that's insane.
Star Christian Slater on humanizing his character, the victim Bryan (changed to Stephen in the film) Kocis, who was by all accounts a porn producer who used his models shamelessly:
I did have some compassion for this guy, I definitely feel like that was in the script. Again, you could take this story and set it against any sort of backdrop—I mean, it's a story of obsession and about human beings trying to sort of find their way, maybe not choosing the most quote unquote ethical path you could take, you know? People, their lives go in all kinds of different directions. Everybody wants to find their path and what it is that motivates them and excites them.This guy was a guy that certainly was presenting a certain image to his family—his sister's asking him to meet a girl, so he's obviously a closeted guy who hasn't revealed himself to anybody and is doing all these things udner the radar. I just thought that was very, very fascinating. I could identify with the frustration of that.
I was thinking about it last night. There were just a couple of lines in it, particularly in the scene with Garrett where I say, “I just wanna feel wanted.” That feeling is universal and something I think a lot of us can identify with.
Check out the movie, playing now—or on demand. Keep reading for a new scene, just released ...