Wednesday, 3 March 2021

From THE REGULATION

 
OF BERLIN PROSTITUTION IN THE 1900S: A STUDY by Dr. Wilhelm Hammer (compiled by Stephen Carruthers).“The conduct of the women was strictly regulated. They had to present to designated clinics until cured and follow orders of the medical authorities.” That sounds like us. And “They had to wear simple and proper clothing.” THE WEARING OF MEN’S CLOTHING IS FORBIDDEN (Regulation 4). At this point, we don’t have any regulations about what kind of clothing we wear. Oh, wait a minute — we do have to wear masks. And: “The conduct of the women was strictly regulated.” Well, that’s true today, our conduct is certainly strictly regulated. ON THE STREETS AND IN THE SQUARES OF THE CITY YOU MAY NOT BY YOUR BEHAVIOR ATTRACT ATTENTION TO YOURSELF. IN PARTICULAR YOU MAY NOT STAND OR SIT ON STREETS, DOORWAYS, BUILDING ENTRANCES, OR PAVEMENTS, NOR ARE YOU ALLOWED TO STROLL UP AND DOWN IN A CERTAIN AREA OR IN AN OFFENSIVE MANNER PARADE YOURSELF…OR FROM A DISTANCE GIVE A WINK OR OTHER SIGN TO MEN TO FOLLOW OR SPEAK TO YOU. (Regulation 5) Again I certainly don’t think they authorities have gone that far in the case of COVID-19. Or — yes, maybe they have. I remember a sign a bar (in those days when we could go to bars): “No dancing, no singing, no moving around.” YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO SHOW YOURSELVES AT YOUR OWN OR ANOTHER’S WINDOWS. DURING A VISIT FROM A MAN THE WINDOWS OF YOUR DWELLING MUST BE SHUT AND COVERED WITH CURTAINS SO AS TO PREVENT ANY VIEW INTO THE DWELLING. IT IS FORBIDDEN TO PLACE A LAMP, A LIGHT, OR ANY OTHE SIGN AT THE WINDOW, OR IN ANY OTHER MANNER, FROM THE WINDOW OR THE HOUSE ENTRANCE, SEEK TO ATTRACT MEN. (Regulation 12) Well we don’t have to worry about that, we can parade about naked in front of windows if we want to. FINALLY, IT IS PROHIBITED FOR YOU TO SHARE YOUR DWELLING WITH ANOTHER PERSON WHILE YOU HAVE A VISIT FROM A MAN.(Regulation 15) Well it is true that during some lock downs the police apparently did have the right to come into your house and tell you that you had too many people in it. “The head doctor could decide without consultation on their treatment and impose harsh punishments.” Dr. Fauci, anyone? And to top it all off — “Despite this strict control regime, each adult male in Berlin had on average 1.2 venereal diseases.” This statistic  blows me away -- although I dislike statistics, as they can be manipulated to prove anything you wish --   all this regulation of women did nothing to stop men from contracting venereal disease. But even more interesting -- why was it only women who were being regulated? Well really, it’s not for us to say is it? The medical authorities are the ones who know — they have the scientific knowledge the ‘science.’ We don’t.  And Public Health are the only ones — besides the government — who are able to regulate how and where you walk, if you can run a business, or the people that you have in your home. Well you may say that the regulation of prostitutes was not absolutely necessary, whereas regulations during COVID-19 definitely are. But there was no penicillin back then, and venereal diseases were often lethal. But what interests me is control -- i.e. power, the access to it, how enjoyable it is to wield it, and also, believe it or not, to submit (this also interested Foucault, he wrote one or two books about this). Rules are rules, and we must follow them, are obligated to follow them, feel guilty if we don’t, must care enough about others to obey, must confess our contriteness if we have done wrong, must change our ways -- as apparently so many COVID-19 ‘deniers' do not do so on their deathbeds, but instead expire in their little dream worlds — 'so sad, so very sad' -- the pretty ladies on TV news tell us. I don’t know if you know a COVID-Nazi, but they turn up in the most surprising places. People quite rebellious -- many of them -- before COVID-19, are now quite very happy to be tell you what to do, or loudly disapprove of you, or not allow you in their own homes. It's not so much about whether or not you like to be in charge, as about the sexiness of power itself; ultimately there is as much joy to be had in rigidly obeying rules as in making them up out of thin air, and even of course -- much joy to be had in flaunting them. There are good homosexuals and bad homosexuals. Believe it or not I am a good homosexual, trying to be a bad one (right now I’m not doing very well at that). This is relevant — why? Because there are those of us who were good octopuses as children and those of us who were bad octopuses. The good octopi were ‘browners,’ and obeyed all the rules. The bad octopi stole eyeliner from Shoppers Drug Mart and got expelled. But these are two sides of the same coin. It’s not so much whether you are good or bad, it’s the unendurable longing to be have rules in place, to feel the effects of power -- and most of all to live in fear; for fear paralyzes, and it is safe there, because we cannot move.


Monday, 1 March 2021

What I’m missing

is strangers; there are so few in my life these days. Almost no one is strange to me. Yes I have ‘hooked up’ with a couple of strange men who I would never want to see again. They were very strange, for sure. But strange means something else; there is an allure; it is the unknown. I am listening to some music right now that seems to me the most beautiful music in the world, at a time when I can do nothing at all but write. God help me if I ever come to hate writing. That’s not possible is it? But what kind of curse is this, when — something that I love so much — I am forced to do all the time, because --  a) there is nothing else to do, and -- b) I will go mad if I don’t. I’ve tried to stop writing this claptrap, but to no avail. For writing, too -- when I leave it and come back --  is strange, frightening. Not now. So there are almost no strangers in my life and I am bereft; I am the opposite of those of you who are so happy to be with your loved ones for these extended periods of time. (We will talk about my ‘loved one’ soon -- but not in the manner you might think.) So I was on the GO train, where all the strangers wear masks — masks that say: ‘do not come near me.' And those who wear them proudly are saying: 'I do not wish to be touched, ever.’ That is a shameful thought — so at least when you wear your mask, wear it with shame. Well in the bathroom on the GO train is a sign —I read it often. With that sign, I experience what Shakespeare calls misprision; a felicitous misunderstanding, a beautiful mistake. I pee often, when I’m on the GO as, again, there is nothing else to do, and it gets me out of my seat. And when I am in a toilet all by myself yes — I do the unthinkable, I take off my mask! (Don’t tell anyone!) So above each toilet on the GO train is a sign. The sign says: ‘Ne jettez pas corps d’etrangers dans le toilette.’ My French is very bad. I read this as 'Don’t throw the dead bodies of strangers in the toilet.’ My failed apprehension is much less interesting than the actual meaning, which is  'do not throw strange objects in the toilet.’ What a disappointment! Before I was beguiled, shocked and amused at the notion that the powers that be might somehow be obligated to remind people not to stash dead bodies in a common commode. I had no idea — I really had never imagined -- that murder was so frequent on trains, Agatha Christie aside. For isn’t that, after all, fiction? To think of all these masked figures, hurrying home, carrying, inside their Walmart bags — not toilet paper — and in their hockey packs — not hockey gear — but dead bodies — and all of them blithely entering the GO toilet quite ready to stuff it all down that serene, mirrored metal basin which constitutes a proper public facility, only to be confronted by a sign, and being so moral, in this way — even as murderers — that they politely obey, and stash the body somewhere else. But alas, the sign is not about strangers, or strange bodies. Is that because we have erased strangers from our lives? After all it is nearly impossible to meet one, even more impossible to have sex with one. And therefore, now -- who will do us kindnesses? Here I refer to Tennessee Williams’: “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers." I'm always amazed that people find that line sad or moving, because Blanche is talking quite specifically about blowjobs, without, of course, actually mentioning them. Tennessee Williams once said that his only real joy in life  was to have a beautiful young man ejaculate on  his chest (I wish I could think of a way to put that more poetically, but that would just be silly, wouldn’t it?)  Because it is only from those we love that we should expect cruelty — certainly not from strangers. I mean as soon as one becomes intimate with anyone, one risks being confused with their parents, or some errant sister, or the inevitable uncle who molested them. But with a stranger one is free from all that — for the stranger has nothing to hold against you but his body, which you will cherish, for a time. The music that I have been listening to is ‘O Mon Bel Inconnu’ which means ‘Oh My Beautiful Stranger’ (I can translate that!) and it is an operetta, or actually a French musical, written by Sacha Guitry with music by Reynaldo Hahn. All I’m going to tell you about Reynaldo Hahn was that he was Proust’s lover. But the music! And the story of ‘O Mon Bel Inconnu’ is a simple tale of yet another wondrous misapprehension. A man finds letters in the lonely hearts column of the newspaper from his wife, his daughter and his maid, so he invites them to visit him — without telling them who he is—  to a villa in the south of France  This is (you guessed it) my story --which means I’m going to tell you now about my lover. I haven’t said much about him, but recently he said I could, so here goes. My lover is a stranger. Yes, it’s kind of like marrying a monster from outer space, and certainly he often seems like one. He keeps secrets from me — sometimes momentous ones — and constantly surprises me, and he often is angry with me, and then quite a different being altogether. I don’t think I will ever know everything there is to know about him. And I’m fine with that. There is a very odd bird in our basement. It’s made out of — straw, I think? And it wears sunglasses and a hat. It’s his very odd bird. I asked him about it once. He was in a mood, and he kind of spat at me: ‘I can’t be bothered to tell you, it’s too complicated!’ There are lots of other details like that about him that I will never know or understand; but unlike the lover who wants to know everything I’d really rather be left in the dark. If your lover is not a stranger than I wish you much joy, really; I do hope the relationship goes on for as long as I have been with my lover (21 years). But it’s going to be a challenge, because you are going to have to find things you don’t know about him to keep it interesting. You might — and probably will — say I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons, or that I have 'intimacy issues.' Maybe. But I would like to think that when I look into my lover's eyes there is an eternal mystery -- and that’s absolutely the way I want it. Well there you go. I was hoping never to turn this blog into a love poem, but that’s what happened. You don’t have to worry. It won’t happen again.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

I will employ

here Empson’s fifth type of ambiguity which is 'fortunate confusion;’ just let the words take me -- allow the words to do the thinking. I want to apologise for my last blog, I seem to have been held hostage by my own thoughts, I am certainly being held hostage, we all are. Can’t remember what I was watching the other day, where someone was talking about prison oh, I know The Lady and the Dale, —which I’ve already talked about here — but yes, prison yes, our life now. And now all I can think of is that you think I’m spoiled. Well I am. I’m not going to apologise for it though. When you’re spoiled you don’t apologise. But the prevailing myth these days is that if you are privileged (which I am) you don’t feel pain, or at the very least you don’t get to talk about it. Well I am going to. Really the news item that got my goat (it's an old expression -- whenever I think about goats I think of Greek tragedy, don't you?) Anyway that’s how boring my life is by the way — I'm going to tell you about an item on the news. If I was a conspiracy theorist I would call that a plot, but I’ll just call it an unfortunate accident -- that my life is so uninteresting that I might as well be dead. So it was a news item about a small lovely looking child who had special needs and recently died. Yes -- you saw it coming-- from COVID-19. Now clearly hardly any children die of COVID-19. But that doesn’t matter, her parents were given prime time to cry, and then to talk about the rash. They pointed to her sad now-dead little arm -- “Yes that’s the rash she had, so you should watch out if your child has a rash.” And then the reporter turned to the audience and said: “Yes folks, if you’re child has a rash you should be very concerned.” I’m not kidding. This was a special needs child, and I’m not saying her life doesn’t matter, what I’m saying is that she died of this rash because she was especially susceptible -- and need I go on? I’m so tired of going on and on, of putting one foot in front of the other, of pulling the curtains when it’s dusk, of sniffling and dripping through my mask, of brown people asking me if I have symptoms. (Jesus Christ! I’m trying to make an anti-racist observation that only brown people are being hired for these menial jobs so leave me alone will you?) Anyway… I’m just. Tired. I’m tired of crying at my computer while listening to Bellini -- and thinking: 'yes, once that tune used to make me happy, but now...' — I’m tired of trying to see boys’ faces through their masks, I’m tired of pretending I’m falling in love with their eyes because there is nothing else to fall in love with. I’m tired of being tortured — yes tortured! Today the Canadian government said ‘We see no need to tell you when the national lock down will be completely over.' Because why? Because we're lucky enough to have a leader who is not a floppy-haired right-wing sock puppet but the very model of youth and political correctness? Whatever the reason, not telling you 'when' is torture. I’m tired of waiting for people to return my phone calls and emails, and actually caring. No, more than that: worrying that they will never call back or email again. I’ve lost several friends recently. No, not to COVID-19 (Jesus!) -- to the fear of it. The idea of mutations or variations or whatever it is gets ahold of them, and wrings the life right out of them: “I’d better stay home.” I’m so angry at this one friend who didn’t return my emails all through the lock down -- and I used to love her so much -- and one of our mutual friends is dying right now. But I guess well — she’s too worried about COVID-19. And then there’s a guy who I used to get naked with -- that’s all we did, was get naked -- who has decided all of a sudden that I”m too ‘risky’ to hang out with. There used to be an experimental theatre series called ‘The Risk' at The Shaw Festival, and you’re going to have to hear about it, because I’ve got nothing to do but talk about old times, and since I’m getting prematurely old, well, why not? Anyway Christopher Newton asked me to direct Oscar Wilde’s Salome which I did, and it was a horrible production I’m sure. I tried to be ‘experimental,’ and it was nice that he asked me but — well it was very hard to be ‘experimental’ when some of the actors just thought of me as Christopher’s untalented fag boyfriend. For instance there was Barry — I can’t remember his last name, but anyway I think he’s dead now (no not of COVID-19, or AIDS - Damn! but you are a suspicious one, aren’t you?) And there was a party scene, and I made one of the straight actors kiss Duncan MacIntosh (who as I’ve mentioned before is now The  Queen Of PEI — look it up, her husband is the king). Anyway, I directed the play very ‘gayly,’ and Barry played Herod, and my friend Camille played Salome. And after opening night (the audience was quite underwhelmed, I think) Camille said: “Did you hear what Barry said?” And I said — no, what are you talking about — because I had no idea, and she said: “Didn’t you hear -- when he’s supposed to say 'Welcome to my party’ he didn’t say that.” Well what did he say then? “He said -- 'Welcome to my GAY party' -- I couldn’t believe it." “Was it an accident?," I asked. “No,” said Camille, “he totally did it on purpose.” I’ll never forget when Gina Mallet (yes that was a Toronto critic's name, once) gave Camille a bad review (in Of Mice and Men at Toronto Free Theatre) saying she was "a cement Lana Turner.” Camille was so crushed: “Am I a cement Lana Turner, Sky?" she wailed, “Am I?” I assured her that she most certainly was not. But right now I would welcome even a bad review. Even from the moronic, mean Martin Morrow (he said I was 'plodding and pointless'!). Yes, you guessed it, frankly I would relish a little attention from anybody. I guess that goes to show what a narcissist I am. But technically speaking, I am not a narcissist, that is, I am not as bad as Donald Trump. Wow, is that really something to be proud of? But what do I have to be proud of anyway? Well….I haven’t gained any weight during this friggin’ pandemic. But not gaining weight means that I have done lots of other things which are very bad -- but which I won’t list here because if my partner of 21 years finds out he’s liable to excommunicate me from his life. I haven’t stopped loving him. That’s one thing. And I haven’t stopped loving this. Writing this gives me a sort of perverse pleasure -- always will, I hope. Thanks for not reading it.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

This is a sad

song. I was interviewed for a 1985 movie about AIDS called No Sad Songs. My big quote: “We are told to watch out for mucous membranes. What the hell is a mucous membrane?” As a gay man my situation is not unlike the those black men who were tortured in the USA Tuskegee Experiment from 1932-1972. They were secretly infected with syphilis and left to die in order to facilitate research on the effects of untreated venereal disease. Similarly, when AIDS appeared, gay men were demonized and told that God had punished them. And for years the medical establishment — even when they finally figured out how the virus was transmitted -- were so incredibly nonplussed by any sort of sexual detail, and particularly by the details of our repellent sex lives, that they neglected to give us the practical information that might have saved us. Thus it’s difficult for me to trust the medical establishment. So here’s a fact. The CDC itself does not report the number of deaths from COVID-19 -- only from COVID-19 and 'co-morbidities,' ergo, it’s impossible to tell what anyone is actually dying of. Another fact — the number of deaths in Sweden from COVID-19 — where they never locked down — are approximately equivalent to the number of deaths in England and France — where they did.  To be sure, death is a constant; what has changed is our attitude to sickness. If you don’t trust the facts (and I wouldn’t, if I were you) the anecdotal evidence is much more persuasive. (Nothing could be more convincing than a daughter speaking on CNN -- of her 90 year old mother dying ‘of COVID-19,’ while holding the trembling hand of her 91 year old husband.)  So here’s this overhead on the GO train: “I don’t mind if they lock us down like this forever. I mean I do all my shopping at Walmart anyway.” Or this, from one of my friends: ‘You won’t find me going back to a bar when this is over — I’m going to drink at home.” It is evident that after nearly a year of lock down a sizeable portion of the population could care less about leaving the house. They are addicted to their diet of digital drugs — porn, fake news, celebrity gossip, video games, tic-toc, social media and endless Disney family fun; ergo, therefore, ultimately it's the end of art.  Gee, I’m sorry for mentioning it—how quaint, antiquated, and irredeemably irrelevant the term ‘art’ seems now.  But I’m not talking about the friggin’ Art Gallery of Ontario here.  I’m talking about the God Dionysus, I’m talking about the all consuming drunken orgy that is, or should be, art, which lies at the origin of human consciousness — the darkness, as well as the blinding light, the mandatory exploration of the hidden recesses of the soul that beckons us — through tears, through the gut, through our dicks and cunts, though laughter, through an intoxicating attraction to violence. I am talking about accessing our anger — plunging our fists deep into the irrational, and yanking out all the hurt, the hate, all our dissatisfaction with this world in which we are born astride a grave. (The only answer for many of us, is  to perch on the edge of that grave and have cocktail.) This is the world I lived in; this is the world of art. No it had nothing to do with polite fundraising activities or arts council debates over funding (I was never much good at fundraising and hardly ever asked to be on a jury) —  nor  the world of ‘issue’ plays about the environment or trans rights. When there were artists, we followed our suicidal urges to plunge deep into our own mutilated psyches and pull out what is not acceptable, or nice, or reasonable. People are not clocks, or test tubes, or are they meant to always do what they are told. They stay up late and drink, and shoot up, and screw — enjoy illicit drugs, joyous orgies, obscene poetry, scandalous plays, bloodthirsty movies, the stuff that shocks your grandmother (yes art itself might turn out to be a ‘co-morbidity' of  COVID-19) — the random eloquence, hands groping, probing seeking — and finding — you guessed it satisfaction, which we ‘can’t get no’ — as the poet says — but still we yearn for it, because it is this yearning for the il-lit corners (I won’t tell you what I left once in the il-lit corner of a bar in Key West) that keeps us alive. Where do you think conspiracy theories come from? From our fundamental need to connect with something that makes sense only in our hearts and in our assholes. If you take that away, if you demand that we live in a spanking clean, sexless, non-violent, rational, happy, family-oriented, yoga-inspired, cookie-baking, child-obsessed nightmare of domestic tranquility — well don’t worry, people will still find the dark. They will find what is alien to you — and they will shove it back in your face. On the street yesterday two boys accosted me. One was quite attractive, I assume that he had been sent on a mission to query the sad old fag in hopes of being financed. 'I’m not going to ask you for money’ he said and then: 'But we’ve been kicked out of our house and I wonder if you could give us any advice.' Wow, was it written that clearly on my forehead: 'I am an old fag with a big house — if you are young and needy and beautiful you might come and stay with me?' — if so, maybe that’s what caught his eye. I asked him why he had been kicked out of his house and he said ‘because our parents accused us of stealing.’ So because the plot was now as thick as pea soup; I suggested he try the youth hostel up the street. A man was walking behind me talking to himself. I tried to ignore him, but soon he was beside me, and at precisely the moment when he passed by, he mumbled 'get some bullets and shoot everybody.’I kid you not. He was an older man wearing fatigues and a cap that said MAFIA on it. Of course these are the kind of encounters that set my mind reeling; but don’t worry, I will not  turn them in a novel or a play —  because you will not want to read a book, or enter a theatre. You are happy safe at home on your digital morphine. That’s fine. But do please remember when you cozy up under the coverlet that the rats are scratching in the ventilation system. No worries— for you need not let them in. Someday, somehow, they will find a way.

Friday, 19 February 2021

I was looking at

photos of Prince Harry and Megan Markle on CNN, enjoying the latest celebrity news. The have been rejected -- finally, and according to the press, somewhat fatally --  by The Royal Family. And we are supposed to be unhappy for them. It’s important to note though, that all this  has little to do with celebrity. It's simply about race and sex (isn’t everything these days?).  I have always thought Prince Harry was good enough to eat, and been astounded by his ability to somehow escape the inherited, time-released ugliness which plagues the other men in his family (is he a bastard?). But what I propose is simple. Could our fascination with this couple have less to do with royal politics than miscegenation, our racist obsession with the pesky, pornographic image of his ginger penis being enveloped by her dark vagina? I see this partially to shock of course. But also partially because it is only through shock that one can reveal a deeper truth, which in this case is that we are all hypocrites. It is this hypocrisy that is putting me to sleep right now, and attempts to steal my life away. I was born in a  deeply hypocritical time— the 50s -- an era to which we have returned, no doubt. There was another image on CNN this morning -- this one of a family whose house burned to the ground during the Texas freeze-up, and the patriarch of the family had only just recently died of COVID-19. Such an image of course predicates prayers to a merciful God. But we all know that COVID-19 is not just a natural accident. And this, of course, comforts us immensely. It is a matter of bad people; of separating the wheat from the chaff,  the maskers, from the faces of evil. It doesn’t matter that images of the now dead father suggest he was morbidly obese -- something that  would have had an enormous affect on his health. This doesn’t matter because we prefer a moralistic universe where -- as Oscar Wilde said -- 'the good are rewarded and the bad are punished,  that is what fiction means.' How much more comforting it is to cry for this poor innocent Texas man, felled by, well possibly -- your next door neighbour (because you saw him the other day, making another unnecessary trip to the grocery store not wearing a mask) -- instead of by a deadly and irrational disease! We would rather live in a world where we are punished for our sins than one in which God has meant us to die needlessly; as this might cause us to either hate God or imagine he doesn't exist. The origins of my sheer exhaustion with moralism -- and its corollary, my obsession with shock — go deep. I was in the closet for 28 years. No one can really figure out why, as my family was not particularly religious. But I was a sensitive child. And when I say sensitive, you must not imagine that I am extolling my virtues, though I am perhaps the most sensitive person that ever lived. No, I do not care about others excessively nor am I concerned over their  feelings, but I will be overly and somewhat neurotically anxious about whatever 'vibes' others project, and instead of trying to understand that reality, I will spin off into my own world, projecting onto them fantasies of what they might be thinking and feeling -- which probably have no relation to reality (hence; I am a writer). So don't doubt that I, as a sensitive child -- picked up on the moralism that lurked around my American 50s household; it was like a disease back then, in America. One was responsible for everything, there were no excuses. I have a friend who is dying right now of a particularly virulent form of cancer, and I watch every day as another bodily function deserts him. There is no justice in this -- though he is somewhat of an alcoholic, an angry Communist, whose sympathies always lay with Cuba. I do not think he is beginning punished for his sins, but rather --like the tide or the wind -- something is happening. I honestly wish I could be different; that instead of being traumatized by moralism, I was hypnotised by it, instead of being repelled by it, I might be granted the glorious erection it bestows on the rest of the world. If so, I would be in heaven right now, for all arts and entertainment has been, these days, co-opted by preaching. We dutifully turn on our digital spies -- or little errand boys of capitalism -- every day, only to be reminded once again that the world is simple, there are good people and there are bad. We are, of course, happy to confirm that we are among the good ones, that we are not like those noxious celebrities who party all night and will most certainly come to a bad end, that we are not like those horrible people who challenge COVID-19 and don’t wear masks. And we know that if we do die of COVID-19, we will be die -- suffering and alone -- but still nobly -- and all our friends and relatives will speak glowingly of our martyrdom. Thus we make peerless deaths of mundane lives. I spent most of yesterday pondering a trip I took to Provincetown with my girlfriend when I was 28 years old. The irony of this trip is not lost on me; I was a closet homosexual (that’s what we used to call them back in 1970) and endured perhaps two weeks -- which seemed like an eternity -- having joyless sex over and over again with a lovely girl who I didn’t want to have sex with, in a town filled with rampaging, sinning, ass-obsssed, penis-adoring sodomites. It’s no wonder that years later, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, I cried when I took the ferry on my vacations to Provincetown,  and spent weeks there in various damned guest houses being serviced by -- and also servicing -- various beautiful young men. This is my tragic life, and from its detritus I try and bring to you these observations, which today swirl around the fact that this COVID-19 thing has left me so bored that I could slash my wrists. But it is the Manichean Binary of it all which has me clawing the walls more than anything else. I watched a documentary on HBO called The Lady and the Dale, about Elizabeth Carmichael. Her life was certainly fascinating, but what was much more fascinating was the way this politically correct piece of trans propaganda managed to turn her into a God. She was merely a person -- and like all of us, particularly flawed ; being a crook (there’s no other way to put it), the worst kind of  liar (there are good ones; they are called artists), and a cheat, and a proponent of the fascist ideology of Ayn Rand. I am not trying to demonize her; I think I would have quite enjoyed Ms. Carmichael as a person. She reminded me a lot of my mother --  and of myself -- but to deify her is to put her on a pedestal, to bow before that idol called ‘morallity’ which if it doesn’t kill the whole world first, is liable to kill me.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

I don’t want to

see any more annoying films about happy gay couples. I’m sick of them. Last night I tried to watch Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar but it was too boring. So I turned it off. Why does every movie these days have to have a sci-fi component? Yes Jamie Dornan gets partially naked -- but not often enough. I found the movie slightly offensive, as the type of women it's making fun of are the type of women I love — i.e. middle-aged, unmarried women who talk too much and live in a fantasy world of their own devising. These women  are my best friends; I love and respect them (mainly because they are so much like me). So I don’t enjoy seeing them lamely lambasted. The movie is only funny when Barb and Star are on -- and then hardly at all. So I downloaded this horrible thing called Falling with Viggo Mortensen and Lance Henriksen. OMG. It was so awful. I only watched ten minutes of it. I think Rotten Tomatoes said ‘it’s a little slow but its heart is in the right place.’ Jesus I should have known, never watch a movie whose ‘heart is in the right place.’ I also must admit I wanted to see what had become of Lance Henriksen. I was in a movie with him once (notice how casually I  throw that off— as if it’s nothing?) It was a horrible movie — the only Hollywood movie I was ever in-- called Face the Evil. Because that title didn’t sell too well it was later renamed No Contest II. Which gives you some idea. It was a sequel to the fabulous No Contest  — which was a rip off of the Bruce Willis Die Hard franchise, only instead of a macho male defending a building under siege —  what about a kickboxing, kickass blonde? Yes, it starred ex-Playboy foldout and ex-Hugh Hefner girlfriend Shannon Tweed. She was very nice to me. One day we were having lunch and she showed me the ring Gene Simmons gave her. It was a very nice ring. Lance Henriksen was very funny though, he took me under his wing. I must have been —I don’t know — nearly forty, but as I have a baby face he thought I was younger. I was playing an ugly skinhead killer (a part I was born to play) and he was the lead villain. Well somehow Lance got it into his head that I was an aspiring young actor looking to make it in Hollywood (honestly, I don't know how he got that idea) so he just had to say: — 'Listen,  kid' (I think he actually called me kid) 'I’ll get you some extra lines.’ And he did. But that was his m.o.; Lance was always trying to get himself more lines, usually by subtly suggesting changes to the lines he had.  Lance would say “Do you really think this guy would say 'I think we should bump him off?' Wouldn’t he say 'I think we've got to bump him off’ instead?" I suppose that -- technically speaking -- Lance was  very nice to me, so I don't want to trash him. But he was a) treating me as if I was straight —which bugs me — and b) he was being avuncular, which drives me nuts. Face the Evil is one of the stupidest movies ever made. The director Paul Lynch was some sort of pervert. I think his claim to fame was directing Prom Night with Jamie Lee Curtis (who he always talked about like she was his best friend). Obviously he hired me for this tiny role because he knew I was the artistic director of a very gay theatre and so he was looking forward to the opportunity to chat me up: “So what do you think…I think your character is into -- some sort of strange kinky stuff -- you know, in bed. Do you agree?” I told him that yes of course, that -- due to the fact that I was somewhat of an expert on 'kinky sexuality' -- it was my considered opinion that all killer thugs are into kinky sex. And then I wiggled out from under the arm he had wrapped around me as quickly as possible. Anyway, I wanted to see Falling partially to see how Lance Henriksen was doing -- and he was doing fine — playing a very, very aged man with Alzeheimers, with gusto. His character was very ‘Lance Heriksen’ — very pushy and unable to take no for an answer. Then there was the gay couple in the film. It took me about 10 seconds to hate them, because they were nauseatingly perfect. First of all they were a mixed race couple — which is fine — but it was patently obvious to me that the only character that mattered was the white fag (Mortensen), the Asian lover was a token added for political correctness, as — at least in the part I saw — he didn’t have any lines, but just dutifully kissed Viggo Mortensen —who had died blonde hair, which of course, means he’s gay. They had an adopted child and—  well, need I go on? These fags don’t resemble any fags I know. I mean I know there are boring fags out there, fags who don’t drink, do drugs, or have promiscuous sex, but instead adopt children, go to church, respect the law, and are model citizens, but I certainly don’t ever wish to see a friggin’ movie about them. And there is another new movie with Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth called Supernova -- which I’m sure is also another boring piece of hypocritical middle-class propaganda. I wouldn't watch that film -- on the basis of the publicity alone. There were endless stories in the press about how Stanley and Colin are great friends, love each other like brothers, and even lived together -- for a time -- but are definitively not gay. I mean why are we still advertising gay movies like this? And why do disabled people inevitably picket movie theatres if a non-disabled person plays a disabled role, but straight men are not only allowed to play gay roles with absolutely no protest from the gay community, but routinely receive Oscars for them?  The realest gayest thing I’ve seen on The Megadigitalnightmare (that's what I call my computer) is Pretend It’s A City — 7  interviews with Fran Lebowitz conducted by Martin Scorcese. Wow. Can you imagine the average Netflix viewer coming across Fran Lebowitz for the first time? “Honey, honey! what is that? Is that a woman - or a man? Or is it some sort of trans thing? Jesus.” No you lunkhead it’s a bull dyke. They are an extinct species, but much tougher -- and certainly crankier -- than any man you’ll ever meet. I love Fran Lebowtiz so much I could kiss her bossy little face. I love her permanent  scowl, her frizzy hair, her incredibly stylish man's coats and shoes, and her opinions on everything. At one point, she said -- with some derision -- ‘anyone who says they are a woman these days can be a woman!’ Good for you Friggin' Fran. You’re tougher than nails and still undeniably a woman — and I am certainly not.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

On family day

 I was drawn back to The Heartbreak Kid —  I’m talking about the original movie, directed by Elaine May -- with Charles Grodin, Eddie Albert, and starring the amazing Jeannie Berlin. I recently saw Jeannie Berlin in Woody Allen’s film Cafe Society on Prime. Cafe Society is a lovely movie, it brought tears to my eyes, if only because it was so beautifully crafted. No one watches Woody Allen movies anymore, except they do. Whatever his personal transgressions he will continue to make great movies. Jeannie Berlin, old now, plays a mother in Cafe Society. This made me think of the original 'Heartbreak Kid 'which is a kind of masterpiece. (I am not referring not to the 2007 film with Malina Akerman and Ben Stiller, which is entertaining enough.) I had been watching the new 'Heartbreak Kid' for years, but I hadn’t recently viewed the old one; and the difference between the two says a lot about where we are now. The Heartbreak Kid is based on a story by playwright Bruce Jay Friedman; the screenplay is by Neil Simon. Interestingly, the original film was created by a flock of Jews, but paradoxically, I have no doubt it would  nowadays be considered anti-Semitic. Charles Grodin -- who is too cute and too fabulous for words (what happened to him?) plays a young handsome Jew who marries Jeannie Berlin — who at first seems an attractive enough Jewish princess. Much is made of the Jewish wedding ceremony, and Jeannie Berlin’s Lyla is a largish, dark-haired and loud -- a somewhat silly, vulgar girl. However, she is nice enough. But Grodin becomes disenchanted with her; on their honeymoon he falls in love with Cybil Shepherd, a beautiful blonde from Minnesota vacationing with her family. Viewed through a politically correct lens the film seems somewhat offensive. The Jewish girl is ridiculed and summarily supplanted by the whitest most Christian girl ever imagined. In the 2007 remake this element is unceremoniously jettisoned — because of course these days nothing can be too political or controversial in mass culture. So Malina Akerman — who is whiter than white — plays Ben Stiller’s first wife, and thus now he is not choosing Christian over Jew. We loose, of course, the gentle and observant satire of Jewish culture -- which was at the heart of Elaine May's vision. But this is not all that’s lost. First of all, the film is just about love and infatuation -- and the thin line that separates the two. Also it is a critique of  60s sexual mores. When Grodin and Berlin are necking before they are married, she pushes his hand away, and says something to the effect of -- ‘let’s save that for marriage.’ They do, with the result that all bets are placed on their wedding night, which is inevitably disappointing for Charles Grodin -- especially when Berlin constantly asks him ‘is it wonderful?’ — until he finally bursts out with “Yes it’s wonderful I’ve said it’s wonderful 10 times!” (Or something to that effect.) Thus the original 1972 film is a subtle endorsement of ‘free love.’ (If the two had had sex before marriage, all this might not have happened.) There are two scenes of comic genius — one when Jeannie Berlin is doing nothing more amazing than eating an egg salad sandwich. I have always found egg salad sandwiches disgusting — I remember my father always made them for me when I visited him towards the end of his life -- not sure why -- no matter how much I told him I hated them -- and it is the one food that can actually, for me, instigate nausea, at the mere mention of it. At any rate Jeannie is eating her sandwich and gets a mouthful of egg in closeup, and Grodin gently says something like ‘Honey, you’ve got some egg there….a little egg on your mouth’ which Belin does not succeed in wiping off, and which he ignores because, well, he’s trying to be nice. Berlin literally has egg on her face, and all you can think of is -- is Grodin married to that? To make matters worse, Berlin keeps saying things like ‘Do you realize we’re going to be married for 50 years’ over and over, which obviously strikes terror in the heart of Grodin, and why wouldn’t it? The reason this movie was so initially traumatic for me (I can barely watch the beginning of it -- it upsets me that much -- and that’s the way good comedy should be) is because I was a closeted homosexual with a girlfriend -- who I was set to marry -- when I first watched it. There is no film quite as claustrophobic and earth shatteringly honest about marriage as this one. In The Heartbreak Kid, it is Cybil Sheppard, a smooth blonde gentile girl -- who sends Grodin into paroxysms of ecstasy and compels him to leave his egg-faced wife, whereas I left a lovely young lady for a smooth, curly-haired young man. The second moment of classic comedy comes when Eddie Albert— terrifying as Cybil Sheppard’s pontificating father -- catches on to Grodin’s unctuous hypocrisy. Trying to flatter Sheppard’s parents about their wholesome Minnesota meal,  Grodin says, hilariously: “There is no deceit in that cauliflower.” (I don't know if it was Simon or Friedman who wrote that brilliant line!) Grodin, by the end of the film,  has married the love of his life, but lost his soul.  For he is now wedded not only corruption, but genocide. One of the men at the Cybil Shepherd  wedding party says to him ‘There’s a lot of money in tear gas.' Behind this is playing the famous Coca-Cola theme song (‘I’d like to give the world a coke’). Of course all of this is gone from the 1972 version. That’s because we live in a corrupt world, in which genocide is accepted — we’re quite happy to talk about the genocide that happened in the past, but when it comes to thinking a little bit about the oppressed people who make our apple computers, iphones, and stitch together our ten dollar jeans in foreign lands, well -- modern films are largely silent. Nowadays Woody Allen is banished from our thoughts, because of something horrible that he may have done in his personal life; that he may have done this horrible thing I am not disputing (I can’t wait for the new HIBO documentary about the scandal — it’s coming up!). But I am a great believer in the depravity of artists. I am sure Elaine May was quite depraved, as was Mike Nichols (you can see May still, very old, but still funny, in Woody Allen’s series on Prime Crisis in Six Scenes). Artists once wrote from the position of ‘we are all depraved so let's take a good look at that depravity’ now they write from 'I am a good person I will teach you how to stop being bad.' It’s all less redeeming, ultimately, and much more yawnable, I’m afraid.