I'd seen it twice already on DVD, curled up with my partner in bed, wincing with recognition at the elements which have survived unchanged from short story to novella to novel and now to film. But seeing Boy Culture, the movie, for the third time really was a different experience—for the first time, I could truly assess it as an independent, creative project—something filmgoers at The 20th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival had no problem doing; some loved it, at least one dude hated it, and it was chosen among the Top 3 of the fest.
For my third viewing of Boy Culture, there was lots of other amazing stuff happening, stuff that instantly contextualized the final film, and that made me feel like a human being for the first time in a long while. (I've been working myself to death—it's a long story.)
On Wednesday, my partner José Vélez and I hosted a party to celebrate the North American premiere of Boy Culture at the TriBeCa Film Festival. It was my way of offering support to the years-in-the-making movie and to the people who put in those years, namely Philip Pierce, Victor Simpkins, Stephen Israel and Q. Allan Brocka. I was pleased to have been consulted throughout the process (except for when they changed archetypical all-American "straight" white Andrew into a less familiar all-African-American "not-exactly-straight" black Andrew...a change I questioned after the fact because I'd positioned my novel as a schizo beach read/white-gay cultural critique, and thought Andrew's race change would leave the movie as only a filmed beach read), but consulting is not the same thing as making the movie—and while I'm a jealous lover, I definitely recognized that these guys really did have control and wanted them to know I felt they'd done good.
José and I have thrown precisely two parties in our life, despite having met at one. Or rather, seen each other at one. We laid eyes on each other at a party thrown by a lesbian couple in Brooklyn (one of the last times I was in Brooklyn), then asked our mutual acquaintances: "Who's that?" That led to group activities and then actual dates. He moved in a year later. But as for hosting parties of our own, we have a spotty track record. We tossed a bash in our two-bedroom Chelsea rental on West 20th Street, an apartment with a stunning view that we were paying nothing for, but which we could not afford to buy when it went condo at the then-astronomical-sounding price of $120,000. Now it must be worth $900,000 or so and last I knew it was owned by one of the founders of Flaunt. That party was well attended, but it was a chips-n-dip affair and I weighed two pounds more than the dude in the movie Heavy, which, remember, was about a fat slob.
Our next party was a seldom-discussed surprise 30th birthday party for me that José lovingly arranged. Surprise! You have no friends willing to come! Very quiet and awkward. I think my sister kept me busy by taking me to see Pitch Black or some other unusual-for-me movie, but I knew it was happening—José hates that about me.
Flash ahead seven and a half years and I think we've got it figured out: hire a caterer. We used Laurence Craig (a phenomenal caterer and great guy—he practically held our hands through the process) and could not have been happier. To think that three months ago we had a bathroom in shambles and no kitchen, and now we had three gorgeous servers, a full slate of freebie booze provided by TriBeCa (thank you, Julian, the world's nicest drop-off guy) and a menu that included smoked salmon beggar's purses, goat cheese and roasted vegetable tarts and I-can-die-happy-now tiny fallen chocolate soufflés...it boggles the mind.
(<--L-R= Jonathon "Joey" Trent, director Q. Allan Brocka and Derek "X" Magyar.) We'd spent weeks trying to figure out who to invite to the party, and wound up with the perfect mix of people we knew ("we" meaning the filmmakers as well as myself), media types and potential distributors. People seemed to have a blast, got to meet and chat with two-thirds of the primary cast (Darryl "Andrew" Stephens was filming and could not come) and with the director and I believe a few phone numbers were exchanged. It's hard to believe it went so well and so quickly. People complimented our new apartment, and we were in need of the support—it's been a long process and you really don't know it it's come together until you get some outside opinions. So that was a major relief.
(<--Here I am with Allan.) I was glad to see Allan and congratulate him in person on the film. I'd only met him once before. His blog mentions he felt underdressed but he looked like a cool indie director and while he may have been jet-lagged, was very charming when asked repeatedly those same questions everyone asks directors. Must say Jonathon "Joey" Trent (-->) was really sweet. I had already e-mailed him that I felt he did a top-notch job and he seemed to be sincerely touched by this and heaped praise on me for the book. Was he the first or second hetero man to have read Boy Culture? I don't know, but he clearly did his homework—how he was able to play the cheerfully slutty, unapologetically flamboyant Joey I'll never know. His manager, Nina Kether Axelrod, was equally kind, telling me she loves writers and had been very interested in meeting me. This is coming from the daughter of the man who wrote The Seven-Year Itch and The Manchurian Candidate, so it was quite surreal.
Derek Magyar, X himself (-->), arrived fashionably late (and fashionably—he appears headed for men's fashion magazines as his star rises) with his "boy" Dustin. Straight guys are able to say, "This is my boy," and make it sound tough and non-sexual. Dustin's an actor and friend of Derek's, and will star in a play Derek's directing soon in L.A. I think it's a foregone conclusion that Derek will become a major movie star. He has great charisma and intensity and wonderful people around him—but in talking with Dustin, whose last name I must get, I have to say he is equally magnetic. I told him I felt I'd met a future star and I meet a lot of actors and don't say that just for kicks. I'll have to write something for him. I guess if I can invent a way not to sleep?
I had a really fun time chatting with Derek (he is a fan of Oliver Mayer, which came up thanks to the Blade To The Heat poster in my kitchen) and his Nancy Seltzer crew (who seem to know they have a good thing in him), and with a steady stream of fun writers, editors, photographers and other creatives. I met Chris Ciompi, the editor of Genre and was shocked how young he is. I mean, they're not looking to hire dried-up trolls, I'm sure. But in talking with him, he displayed encyclopedic knowledge of gay publishing. I can see why people would follow his orders. I also finally got to meet the charming Lawrence Ferber of The Advocate. Forgot to thank The Advocate for calling Boy Culture "the hottest gay film of 2006" on its cover. There was a question mark in the original mention, but sounds better without! I'm sure Mickey Cottrell would agree—he's a truly legendary publicist who's working the movie. What can you say about someone who's worked on My Own Private Idaho? Good company. I even saw friends of mine, Tim Wright and Lav Savu, who I haven't seen in at least two years.
Overall, it just had a nice energy to it and sent us off to the screening with a feeling of unity, so I have to say I'm very happy I threw this party and that I did not end up over-worrying about, "My floor! My brand-new floor!"
The screening was in the East Village. José and I took a car service over with Larry and with Phil Lobel, a longtime publicist who became a co-producer of Boy Culture. I'd worked with Phil before, but it was very strange to be seeing him in a whole new light, as a partner of sorts. Phil kept us entertained with off-the-record stories about his past clients, including Brad Pitt.
Some hot young actors were at the screening, and so were quite a few potential fans—the theater had a line out front for "door sales" since the screening had sold out on-line—and I definitely was jazzed and maybe even embarrassed seeing people waiting. "I hope you guys like it," I thought, "and that those of you who don't won't be assholes and run home to trash it on Yahoo or something." I felt like I should buy them tickets. But I didn't. And then, "This way for Boy Culture," was being said to us and my trip down the rabbit hole was complete. The screening was very nearly full. I think I had three extra unused tickets, so that might account for the empty seats that there were. The film received a very warm introduction and I sat near my great friend Gordon Wallace, his partner John Huynh and their friends for support. It's a queasy feeling because it's not YOUR movie, but it's your story...so you're attached and detached. But having your name on it does tend to firmly attach you emotionally.
Seeing the fllm again, and for the first time on the big screen, was transformative. Whatever my problem was before with seeing it as a movie as opposed to something too personal to critique evaporated. I definitely felt an overwhelming sense that the director and writers had captured the soul of my novel, almost to the point where I felt like the room was attending a reading of my diary—it's like a full-on filming of what I was thinking when I first wrote the story. I won't go into explicit detail because I still feel the critiquing of the movie belongs to the viewers, but I will say that I truly felt that changing Andrew's race made total sense. It is not only a commercial inclusiveness, it broadens the questions I was attempting to ask about white gay culture into questions about gay culture, and about men in general. Allan did right by me.
In his blog, Allan sheepishly wonders if the crowd liked it. I'm the biggest pessimist cynic of all time, and while I'm sure as with any art there will be haters, I have to say the crowd was with the picture. They laughed in all the right parts and were respectfully silent in all the right parts, applauded with vigor and stuck around to ask Allan, Phil and the cast questions after a little gentle prodding. Jonathon cutely said he says yes to ANY acting jobs, drawing a big laugh, but went on to say this was one he was proud of—and he should be.
The afterparty was a trip because I haven't been in a club in forever. I'm so old and married and boring and overworked (more on that part eventually). I got to meet Joi Cardwell, a really gifted singer whose club music is effortlessly anthemic, and tell her it was an honor her song was in a seminal scene of Boy Culture. She graciously e-mailed me her entire new disc, which I believe is called Plain Jane Project, and which I can report is flawless as usual.
You have nights in your life where you feel very much in your element, very happy and alive. This was one of those. I can't imagine it could have been any better.
I hope if you've read this far you'll check out Boy Culture somewhere. I'll post more about its festival dates and will attempt to be better about linking coverage (good and bad) of it as it occurs.
(Group picture of Derek, Allan and Jonathon and picture of Jonathan Caouette and Joe Flaten by Brian Brooks/IndieWIRE.com.)