I want this world back sometimes. There is nothing so aesthetically pleasing in the world as the movies I grew up watching on late night cable.
Except for maybe the Times Square grindhouses, which I missed entirely.
Thank the goddess garage rock is back.
The Coathangers- "Trailer Park Boneyard"
Bleached- "Think Of You"
Anybody know where I can buy a vintage leather jacket like in the Bleached video, by the way? They're surprisingly really hard to find.
Also, just for fun, here's another one of my obsessions: goth kids on 90's talk shows. Your'e welcome:
I finally started writing my musical for The Bushwick Starr, which opens in just over a year. It's a large scale horror fashion musical that takes place on a runway (maybe) and an expansion of my late night serial for The Bats, The House of Von Macrame, which ran for six weeks at The Flea this year. The plot revolves around a psychic model and a hunky fashion photographer who unwittingly become involved in a series of occult murders within the fashion industry. Think The Eyes of Laura Mars mixed with Suspiria mixed with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I've been watching a lot of vintage modeling, which is like heaven for me. Check out some of these awesome glamour sessions:
I've secretly been writing a web series. Why is it a secret? I guess it feels less legitimate than theater, even though it'll probably be seen by many, many more people. Also, it's new for me and people I admire like Michael Cyril Creighton and Eliot Glazer are already doing it so well. (When It Gets Betterish premiered I'd already written three episodes of my show and almost gave up, it's so good.) That said, just because there are three good gay web series's out there, that isn't a reason for me not to do something, is it? I mean, there are at least ten good plays happening right now, right? (Tarhearted homeboy Robert Askins' Hand to God is coming back in February for eight more weeks, btw!)
The truth is that sometimes you have to do something different to stay sane. I have lots of amazing theater projects coming down the line (did you see that MilkMilkLemonade is #1? Sorry, Mike Daisey.) Plus TV projects and a graphic novel. The thing is, I need a project I can be the boss of. I'm a very collaborative writer, and not at all sensitive about taking notes, but when you're not self-producing theater, when you have a book deal, when you're working with producers on TV pilots... all you do is take notes, and it can start to wear on you (me.)
If I don't chicken out, Boyfriend Material will be a six episode black comedy that follows a broke faggot named Curry Carmichael around Brooklyn over the course of one day as he is dumped for not being "straight acting" enough, tries to score a trendy new drug called Super Coke, gives a Hasid a hand job, prevents a lesbian suicide, and attends the premiere of a performance art piece with a transgender mugger.
I think it's different enough from the three gay web series I like to warrant being made. Boyfriend Material will be in black & white and filmed in Broolyn's finest crack dens, alleys and abandoned buildings. It's a nod to a New York City that was grittier and presumably more fun, and a simultaneous satire/celebration of underground filmmakers like Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol and the earliest John Waters.
At least, that's my hope for it. Maybe I'll still chicken out. If not, look for an incessant and aggressive fund raising campaign in the next month. On second thought, you won't need to. I'll find you.
In the mean time, please enjoy these great web series.
I've recently been watching a lot of ABC's sitcom, Happy Endings. It's a single camera comedy set in Chicago revolving around a break up within a tight group of friends. It's simple and cute. One of the friends, the adorable ne'er-do-well Max, is gay.
I had a crush on Max, so I googled him and discovered that lots of TV writers crush on him too. They praise his schlubbiness, his pudge, his bad behavior and his general "un gayness." People, it turns out, like a gay character who doesn't seem "gay." Presumably because he's pudgy and likes sports and wears cargo pants. What's more, tv writers appreciate that Max's homosexuality is a non-issue amongst the other characters, straights all.
I've heard all this before, of course. Even from gay people. "I just wish there could be a gay character where nobody makes an issue of it." On the gay person's part I think it's a desire for homosexuality to be de stigmatized. A sort of, "Imagine if we didn't have to deal with this shit." But on the part of television networks I feel wary. I'm afraid a "straight acting" gay guy translates to "this will make us look progressive even though this character will never have sex or fall in love or deal with discrimination." Advance press says Max is getting a boyfriend in Season 2, so I'm happy to report that gay tokenism doesn't seem to be the case here.
Still, a couple of things:
1. I notice more and more that gays and straights alike have a distaste for sissy for effeminate gay men. I see it in the comments sections for gay blogs. I understand the desire more varied depictions of gay men, but it's obvious when you read how much bile these dudes pour on femmes that they have mucho internalized homophobia. They're the same queens that hate drag and want to drop the T from LGBT so we seem more "normal."
And mainstream media, too, is quick to praise gay characters on TV that aren't effeminate. Characters like Max or the ROTC son from United States of Tara. "This is no Curt from Glee," they say, or, "This is no Jack MacFarland." I love my Max and all, but I have to ask: What the fuck is wrong with Curt? Or Jack?*
In both cases there's an implied annoyance with effeminate men. I keep thinking of the Backstage critic who wrote of my performance in Lonesome Winter by saying something like, "Joshua Conkel is just not funny, especially when he acts like a bitchy fashion designer." Fashion designer is a euphameism if you're too slow to keep up.
2. And what the fuck is wrong with me? Oh god, the traits critics praise in max are the same traits I found attractive. I hate the term "straight acting" but... am I attracted to straight acting guys? Or are the definitions for "straight acting" or "gay acting" totally arbitrary and made up? I myself don't fall into either category. I'm pretty effeminate acting, but I'm covered in tattoos and I prefer The Misfits to Lady Gaga. That ain't very Chelsea. But I'm totally attracted to rockabilly dudes or guys who seem like they might be criminals, and I suppose that makes me "into straight acting guys." Blech! That was so gross to type. Because, why one or the other? Seriously, this question is gnawing at me. Television, please help me.**
3. I'm not in the camp who thinks it's good to have gay characters where their sexuality is "a non-issue" because- nine times out of ten- it's a non-issue because it's never discussed or dealt with in any way whatsoever. I love LGBT characters on television, effeminate or not, but not if they're just there to help some lady get dressed. Likewise if they're only character trait is to be the opposite of whatever "gay acting" is. They have to be fully formed, in and out of love, sexual, struggling, etc. Just like all the other characters. All of my closest friends are straight and you know what? i would never allow them to turn my homosexuality into a non-issue. Same goes with my family and coworkers and the man who runs the bodega on my corner. It's always there and on the table (not physically), whether people like it or not.
*I had problems with Will & Grace, but not because Jack was effeminate.
**Ugh. Straight men are so lucky they don't have to think about this shit all the time.
I spent my twenty-first birthday with one of my besties, Mallery Avidon (who's now a super famous playwright.) Or, I guess, the day before my 21st birthday. I was a sophomore at Cornish College of the Arts and most of my friends weren't locals like Mallery and me and were out of town for the holidays. San Francisco or wherever. Some in Los Angeles or Portland. Mallery and I smoked some pot (I assume) and saw Not Another Teen Movie at Westlake Center. We went to a bar in Pioneer Square (I think) and I had Goldschlager for the first time. ("You mean it has real gold flakes in it?") Mallery was house sitting for some rich people in Queen Anne who had a hot tub, so we took a cab there- but it was really just a big bath tub. We got in anyway.
What I remember most though is that I got to go to a gay bar for the first time that night. At midnight- my actual birthday. It was Neighbors in Seattle, and it was Rock Lobster- their new wave, 80's-only night. This was before the aughts had really started, music was in a lull (not starting for another year or two with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, White Stripes etc.) so I was really into new wave. Because what else was there? All my older friends at school had been talking about Rock Lobster forever and I was dying to go. The bouncer made me wait until exactly midnight.
I remember checking my bag thinking, "This. This is the big city life. This is glamor." Later I visited Neighbors after living in New York for a few years and I was struck by how much it was like a barn dance it was. I guess once you've done blow in the backroom of The Cock, nothing ever seems quite so "urban" again. Anyway, Mallery quickly ditched me and so I skulked around with a rum and coke (do all 21-year-olds drink rum and cokes?) waiting for I don't know what to happen.
I ended up dancing with a cute but nerdy guy in his thirties. He eventually asked if I wanted to take off and I thought, "This is it! I'm actually gonna have a one night stand... like an adult!" It turned out he was a Canadian businessman of some sort and we had to take a cab all the way to his hotel in Bellevue. We had to tip toe to his room too because he had coworkers in the adjoining rooms on either side.
Once we were inside his room he was all business. He whipped off his clothes and was all, "Are you clean?"
I thought, "I'm only 21. Of course I am. Just what kind of girl do you take me for?" But I just said yeah. I don't remember the sex or if we actually had it. It could have just been naked groping and making out. We were very, very drunk. Or I was, anyway. I do remember him asking me if I worked out and telling him that, no, I didn't.
"You better start or you'll lose this body when you're 30."
The next morning- December 21st, 2001- he put me in a cab back to the city, but not before giving me his business card. His name was Rob Wood. I don't know how I didn't catch that. On the back of the card he'd written, "Happy birthday! USA is #1!" I think I still have it somewhere.
In the cab on the way back to the city I reached into my pocket to get my chapstick and discovered forty dollars. Rob Wood slipped forty dollars into my jeans. At twenty-one, I was already a cheap old whore. I put some sunglasses on, drank a bottle of water to stave off my hangover and thought to myself, " Fuck, dude. I am an adult."
That was ten years ago today. Fuck, dude.
I read Tina Fey's delightful little book Bossypants and I can't stop thinking about the career advice she gives, advice she gleaned from this old school Sesame Street clip:
Over, under and through.
They don't play the clip anymore- I guess because it's a bad idea to encourage children to play in a construction site? But the career advice feels fresh.
Fey is talking about gatekeepers and, in her case, sexism in the workplace. If you have a boss who is mysoginistic, don't waste your time trying to change them. You can't. Instead, focus your energy on someone above them, below them, or find an alternate route to the other side of said gate.
I think the same thing can be said for writers. Being a young writer can be frustrating, because you're consistently at the mercy of other people's taste and the folks running the show and the young playwright often have very little in common. Different ages, classes, sometimes different races and certainly a different taste. It's a baby boomer's theater, so what's a young playwright to do? Over, under, through.
One of the great things about productions of MilkMilkLemonade popping up all over the country is that it sparks coversations with people, and I was recently surprised to see somebody tweet:
In all the conversations I've had about the play, all the parts I've had to defend over the years, that was a new one to me. So I tweeted Ira back and we've been discussing it on Twitter and on his blog. It's been great!
This is just another example of what Social Media can do for artists. Having conversations like this help deepen my understanding of the world, broaden my understanding of different kinds of people and help shape my work. I love this stuff.