HBO has released an eleven-minute featurette about the making of Steven Soderbergh's swan song, his Liberace biopic that he says is too gay for Hollywood. HBO airs it on Sunday, May 26.
HBO has released an eleven-minute featurette about the making of Steven Soderbergh's swan song, his Liberace biopic that he says is too gay for Hollywood. HBO airs it on Sunday, May 26.
With the rush to convince straight politicians and judges we're the same as them and worthy of the same institutions and rights, anyone might believe gay people had stopped thinking about the value of difference. Queercore filmmaker Bruce LaBruce adapts his lecture from last year's Camp/Anti-Camp conference in Berlin for an essay in the new issue of Nat. Brut journal. Rictor Norton says it's "the best analysis of camp since Sontag."
LaBruce begins with fifteen lists of subcategories such as bad gay camp (Will & Grace, Adam Lambert), good straight camp (September, 3 Women), bad straight camp (Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Stanley Tucci in Prada, Hunger Games), ultra camp (Wilde), bad ultra camp (Liza in Sex & the City 2), reactionary camp (Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy), subversive camp (Pee Wee Herman), quasi-camp (Midnight Cowboy, Cruising), intentional camp (The Shining, Casino Royale), and unintentional camp (J. Edgar, The Iron Lady), among others.
Realizing, "sadly, most of it falls under the category of 'bad straight camp,'" he traces how we got here and blames the new irony:
"...The net result was that much of the general populous (now roughly equivalent to 'pop culture') had adopted the posture as a given to the extent that people generally lost track of its meaning or purpose: there was a kind of ironic detachment from everything. People started routinely to say the opposite of what they meant, and meant it, failing to understand that their new 'sensibility' had become a betrayal of their actual former set of beliefs or tastes, which they even perhaps once held sacred. So in a sense, irony became a malaise, a kind of generalized disaffection that infected the dominant culture. I surmise that this is what opened up the floodgates for the rise of camp culture, or rather the corruption and misinterpretation of camp culture – a certain detached artificiality and forced excess..."
After a stinging critique of Britney, Gaga, Rihanna, Beyonce, and Nikki ("...hyper-referentiality, extreme hyperbole, a crudely obvious, unnuanced female sexuality, and even a vaguely pornographic sensibility which, unhappily, is post-feminist to the point of misogyny...") he laments:
"This new annexation and corruption of the camp sensibility now exists largely without the qualities of sophistication and secret signification that were developed out of necessity by the underground or outsider gay world, which originally created camp as a kind of gay signifying practice... It was developed as a secret language in order to identify oneself to like-minded or similarly closeted homosexuals, a shorthand of arcane and coded, almost kabbalistic references and practices developed in order to operate safely apart and without fear of detection from a conservative and conventional world that could be aggressively hostile towards homosexuals, particularly effeminate males and masculine females. In the contemporary world, in which gays have largely assimilated into the dominant order, such signifying practices have become somewhat obsolete, and the previous forms of camping and camp identification have long since been emptied of camp or gay significance, rendering them easily co-opted, commercialized, and trivialized."
Beyond the arts, his takedown of political camp is fierce:
"...For what are Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump, and Herman Cain other than conservative camp icons enacting a kind of reactionary burlesque on the American political stage? Wholly without substance, their views exaggerated and extremely stylized, and evincing a carefully contrived posture of 'compassionate conservatism,' they function merely as a crude spectacle that mocks the unwashed masses by pretending to be one of them while simultaneously offering them policies that are directly antithetical to their authentic needs."
Building to a high point he concludes,
"The new tendency of conservative camp runs in diametrical opposition to the impulses of classic gay camp, which sought to celebrate, elevate, and even worship the qualities of deviance, difference, and eccentricity that characterized the highly aestheticized homosexual experience of past eras."
After co-founding and leaving Depeche Mode, after co-founding Yaz and leaving Alison Moyet, Vince Clarke advertised in Melody Maker for a singer for his new duo and plucked a gay meatpacker (literally) born in Dogsthorpe. With his high voice, high energy, and high style, Andy Bell put the disco in Erasure's discography: Who Needs Love Like That, Oh, L'amour, Sometimes, It Doesn't Have To Be, Victim of Love, Chains of Love, and A Little Respect, among many other singles that have, since 1985, propelled them to record sales of 25 million worldwide. Openly out while others cowered, Andy appeared on many gay charity albums like Red Hot + Blue, events like Red Hot + Dance, the True Colors Tour, the No H8 photo campaign, and he's headlining St Louis Pride in June. Though the Brit lives in Spain, the day of the US Supreme Court's DOMA hearing, he tweeted the video of A Little Respect. Middling interest in Erasure's recent albums of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2011, have led to... a Christmas album coming in November. Andy is 49 today. His partner of 25+ years, Paul Hickey, died at 62 last April.
You think Courtney was the only complicated chick in Hole? Drummer Patty Schemel refused to take part in the March 1994 intervention to get Kurt off drugs because she was addicted to heroin and didn't want to be hypocrite. (Patty had been Kurt's first choice to replace Nirvana's original drummer Chad Channing, until Kurt heard Dave Grohl's audition, when she was bumped to second choice.) Famously, she split from Hole before their recording of Celebrity Skin -- maybe because of the drugs, maybe because the producer wanted her gone -- but she still appears on the album cover because she co-wrote many of the songs, even though she doesn't perform them. She was supposed to be in the video for the first single, but didn't show up. That break didn't end her relationship with Courtney. Later they formed the short-lived band Bastard, and she co-wrote and performed song's on Courtney's solo album America's Sweetheart. Patty lives with her wife Christina Soletti and their daughter in Los Angeles.
Patty is the subject of the documentary Hit So Hard, which features interviews with all four Hole members. Its premiere at New Directors New Films got them all in same room together for the first time in thirteen years. Director David Ebersole's next doc is about Cher's mom, Georgia Holt, which premieres on Lifetime next week, May 6.
Everything But the Girl, the gay man's motto. And, for a while, every queer's favorite British duo. Lead singer Tracey Thorn's memoir Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star is out today from Virago:
"A frank and funny pop culture memoir in the vein of Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, this is "how to be a woman artist"
Tracey Thorn, one half of the internationally successful group Everything But the Girl, collaborator with such artists as Paul Weller, Massive Attack, and dance legend Todd Terry, was only 16 when she bought an electric guitar and joined a band. A year later, she formed an all-girl band called the Marine Girls, played gigs, signed to an indie label, and started releasing records. Then, for 18 years, between 1982 and 2000, she was one half of Everything But the Girl. They released nine albums and sold nine million records, went on countless tours, had hits and flops, and were reviewed and interviewed to within an inch of their lives. Tracey has been in the charts, out of them, back in. She's seen herself described as an indie darling, a middle-of-the-road nobody, and a disco diva. As she explains here, she hasn't always fit in, a fact that's helped her to face up to the realities of a pop career. She discusses her realizations—that there are thrills and wonders to be experienced, but also moments of doubt, mistakes, and violent lifestyle changes from luxury to squalor and back again, sometimes within minutes. This is the funny, perceptive, and candid story of her 30-year pop career."
In an announcement even longer delayed and less surprising than Jodie Foster's, hitmaker Clive Davis has finally, officially come out in his new memoir The Soundtrack of My Life [Kindle], six weeks shy of his 81st birthday. The producing powerhouse who founded Arista Records and J Records, Davis signed or managed superstars Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Earth Wind & Fire, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti Smith, Air Supply, Barry Manilow, Alicia Keys, TLC, Usher, Pink, Outkast, Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Alan Jackson, and of course Whitney Houston, among dozens of others. He is currently Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Group, with flagship labels Columbia, RCA, and Epic. Online databases peg his net worth at $800 million.
The twice-married father of four says he's been dating men for decades. He's been with his current partner for eight years and before that had a fourteen-year relationship with a (male) doctor.
One of several upcoming projects is relaunching My Fair Lady on Broadway. He wants Anne Hathaway and Colin Firth.
The LA Times' critic says the book is "filled with fantastic scenes and revelations" but short on the business of the music industry.
In a surprise vote, Bill Clinton (Back to Work), Michelle Obama (American Grown), Rachel Maddow (Drift), and Ellen DeGeneres (Seriously...I'm Kidding) lost last night's Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album to by far the least-known of the five nominees, lesbian folkie Janis Ian for her new reading of her 2008 memoir Society's Child: My Autobiography [Kindle]. The story covers her music and early fame, of course, as well as her bad marriage to a brilliant but abusive man, her coming out in 1993, and her happy marriage to a woman, Patricia Snyder, celebrating their tenth anniversary this year.
Out gay Frank Ocean's much-nominated channel ORANGE won only Best Urban Contemporary Album. He lost Best New Artist to FUN. Jay-Z and Kanye won Best Rap Collaboration for "No Church in the Wild" which also features Frank Ocean.
Not getting enough "gay urban Afro-boho interracial romance" in your literary diet? John Gordon's new novel Colour Scheme [Kindle] will do the trick. According to his publisher, the story unfolds "over one sweaty summer following a night of shocking violence in a post-9/11 London of vinyl records, video-cassettes and mix-tapes, seething with passion and oil-paint, music and dance. Meet bebop-cool Malcolm, wigger rudeboy Luke, Jamaican choreographer George and schizophrenic African artist Ziggy, seekers for love, on the run from buried truths that by the summer's end they all must face. Murder, bereavement, Vodou, twins and madness: new love on the rack. Will it survive?"
You probably know John Gordon best for his work on the tv show Noah's Arc and the feature Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, but this is his fifth novel. Exactly a year ago he published his high-octane story of a Jamaican raggae producer chased by gangstas in London, Faggamuffin [Kindle]. His 1993 debut, Black Butterflies, is a healing romance between Wesley and Paul in south London. His second novel Skin Deep, follows best friends Ray (into white guys) and Chris (into leather). His third novel Warriors and Outlaws explores a broader canvas of London life as the young leader of the Panther Posse with political aspirations, Jazz, shoots a policeman and hides out with a drag queen he has previously ignored named Carly.
Is it interesting or irrelevant to know John Gordon is white and lives in Shepherd's Bush? He has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won a New London Writers' Award. National Book Award finalist Susan Straight is another white author who in eight novels has written exclusively about protagonists who are black (seven books) or Latino (one).
Despite top stars (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon above / Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo) and big directors (Steven Soderbergh / Ryan Murphy), two long-gestating queer films, Behind the Candelabra and Larry Kramer's aids drama The Normal Heart, have failed to find studio backing and won't be released as features. The reason is they're "too gay."
Kramer's play debuted in 1985 and for years Barbra Streisand was going to make the movie version. In 2011 The Normal Heart was announced as a feature directed by out wiz Ryan Murphy, costarring Alec Baldwin and Jim Parsons, and co-produced by Brad Pitt's Plan B, but the funding fizzled.
Soderbergh, who is straight and retiring this year so less shy about burning his bridges, unloaded on Hollywood's homophobia in his efforts to finance the Liberace biopic: "Nobody would make it. We went to everybody in town. They all said it was too gay. And this is after ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ by the way, which is not as funny as this movie. I was stunned. It made no sense to any of us." He added, "Studios were going, 'We don't know how to sell it.' They were scared."
For some thoughts on Soderbergh's indignation, see the following post.
Both movies have been picked up by HBO, where they will get a lot of attention, a lot of award nominations, and limited viewership. Behind the Candelabra airs this spring, The Normal Heart in 2014.
When she was 29 Winnaretta agreed to marry happily and platonicly the 59 year-old Prince Edmond de Polignac who shared her deepest love of music and, it seems, her homosexuality. Their famous salon in their mansion on what is today Avenue Georges-Mandel hosted first performances of new work by Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel with frequent guests Proust, Cocteau, Colette, Diaghilev, Monet, and Isadora Duncan, who had a baby by one of Winnaretta's brothers. Eight years into their marriage, the prince died and Winnaretta commissioned more than seven compositions in his honor including works by Stravinsky, Satie, and Weill. Winnaretta played the piano and organ, and she painted, but her greatest contributions to the arts were as patron to individuals, ballets, operas, and symphonies. In 1911 she built a public housing project and during WWI she and Marie Curie transformed private limousines into rolling radiology units to aid the injured at the front. Born in New York during the Civil War she died in London during WWII, in 1943 at 78 living with her lover Alvilde Chaplin, 34. Winnaretta is included in Diana Souhami's Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho, and Art and is the subject of Sylvia Kahan's biography Music's Modern Muse.
Light years ahead of the pack in his androgyny, bisexuality, theatricality, and his music, David Bowie today turns 66 and releases his first single in 10 years, Where Are We Now?, a midtempo lament, below. His legendary Carnegie Hall debut in 1972 was only his third show ever in the U.S. The critic Robert Christgau called Bowie "an English fairy" and complained that songs like "Andy Warhol" weren't manly enough for American rockers. Of course, Bowie had sunk to his knees in front of guitarist Mick Ronson and simulated oral sex. Bowie's son Duncan, 42 this year, directed the movies Moon and Source Code. Bowie's daughter Lexi is 12.
After studying art history at the University of Heidelberg and flying as a combat pilot in WWI, F.W. Murnau directed his first film The Boy in Blue in 1919 when he was thirty-one. Before his death in a car crash at forty-two, he became one of cinema's early giants -- (said to be 6'9" tall) -- with a prodigious output in Germany, most famous of which is Nosferatu from 1922. After four years and many more successes (The Last Laugh, Faust) Murnau moved to Hollywood and made what many critics consider one of the greatest films ever, Sunrise, which shared the top prize at the first Oscar ceremony. Sunrise is #82 on the AFI 100 Greatest Films list but in 2002 the British Film Institute ranked it #7 of all time. He made two more movies -- Four Devils (lost) and Our Daily Bread (released as City Girl) -- before his final picture, Tabu, a loincloth romance shot in Tahiti that won a cinematography Oscar for Floyd Crosby (father of David Crosby who is biologically the father of Melissa Etheridge's children). He died a week before Tabu's premiere. Because humans are easily titillated, and because some are snickering homophobes, the baseless rumor persists that Murnau's fatal car crash was the result of his performing oral sex on his chauffeur.
Born in central Argentina in 1932, Manuel Puig first wanted to be an architect then became a film archivist with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. His love of movies infuses his first novel, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, published when he was thirty-six. Praised in Latin America as that work was, his international reputation rests on his fourth novel, published in 1976, about a gay man and a political prisoner sharing a cell: Kiss of the Spider Woman [Kindle] also became an Oscar-winning film in 1985 and a Tony-winning Broadway musical in 1993. The buoyancy of his early books, mixing high literary art with the low-brow style of telenovas, gave way to a bitterness in later books that reduced their popularity. A leftist exile in Mexico City for decades, he died there at fifty-seven suffering a heart attack after gall bladder surgery.
Who brings the funk, da noise, and the klezmer? That's right, the super original Jewish Canadian rapper Josh Dolgin aka Socalled. If you think Ukrainian music from the 1930s won't mesh with drum n bass, you haven't heard his Ghettoblaster. His trippy "You Are Never Alone" video became a YouTube sensation with 2.5 million views, and last year he was the subject of a feature documentary by Garry Beitel. In a world of timid, homogenized, market-driven art, Socalled is a standout. Which doesn't mean everything he tries works, but when he hits, he's genius. I met him and loved him after the NYC screening of the documentary. Not to brag, but after talking a while I did the very best thing one man can do for another... insisted he read Tatyana Tolstaya. Next month he rocks Banff, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Remember last July 4 when 25 year-old New Orleans R&B hip-hop singer Frank Ocean came out -- via tumblr, of course -- and you said, Who? Understandable, because his debut album Channel Orange didn't come out until a week later. Last month it was voted Album of the Year at the Soul Train Awards, and by the music critics at USA Today, and now the album has topped the UK's 12th annual Poll of Polls (Jack White was second, Tame Impala third). Earlier this month Ocean was named MTV's Man of the Year. Channel Orange is nominated for six Grammys, including Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary, and Record of the Year for this gay song, "Thinking About You."
Elvis: "Your music has inspired me - you are the greatest."
The Beatles: "He was my idol at school. The first song I ever sang in public was Long Tall Sally, at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition! I love his voice and I always wanted to sing like him." "It was all his fault really."
The Rolling Stones: "Little Richard is the originator and my first idol." "Little Richard is King."
Bob Dylan: in his high school yearbook says his goal is "to join Little Richard."
David Bowie (not so straight): "After hearing Little Richard on record, I bought a saxophone and came into the music business. Little Richard was my inspiration."
Paul Simon: "When I was in high school I wanted to be like Little Richard."
Bob Seeger: "Little Richard - he was the first one that really got to me... I always preferred a high energy vocal, a hard full-force vocal. I liked Little Richard better than Elvis."
Pat Boone: "No one person has been imitated more than Little Richard."
Black superstars too are quick to credit Little Richard, although in following him they never reaped the same rewards as their white counterparts.
James Brown (who claimed that Little Richard was the first to put the funk in the rock beat): "Little Richard is my idol."
Otis Redding: "If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here. I entered the music business because of Richard - he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff, you know. Richard has soul, too. My present music has a lot of him in it."
Sam Cooke: "I love Little Richard. He is a great entertainer and he has done so much for our music."
Smokey Robinson: "Little Richard was the beginning of that drivin', never-let-up, funky Rock 'n' Roll."
Ray Charles: Little Richard "started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what's happening today."
Rev. Al Green: "I was a little kid when I heard Little Richard. He was playing piano and singing that song [Jenny, Jenny]. Even then, I knew he was a classic, one-of-a-kind. I never heard (a performer) with that kind of enthusiasm."
Jimi Hendrix: "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."
What makes his lasting importance astounding is that it's all based on two years' work. He released Tutti Frutti in November 1955, and in 1957, while touring Australia, he became born again and quit the music business. His success and influence are even more surprising when you consider how, in the middle of the Eisenhower administration (the summer of '56 when Ike added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance and authorized the national motto of "In God We Trust"), Little Richard made the world fall for a high camp, effeminate black man in flashy clothes, crazy hair, wearing heavy pancake makeup and heavier eyeliner. (He based much of his style on another Southern gay black man, Esquerita.) Given the times, none of this should have happened for Richard Penniman. Given his own background, with his parents disowning him at thirteen for being gay, it should have been impossible.
Starting in the 1960s, he staged many comebacks, easily slipping into caricature and never equaling his early highs: After Tutti Frutti came Long Tall Sally, Slipin and Slidin, Rip It Up, Lucille, Jenny, Jenny, Keep a Knockin, and Good Golly, Miss Molly. Beyond the music, he has kept the persona relevant for fifty years. Witness his turn with King Ralph and his ads for Geico.
Jazz genius Billy Strayhorn spent his life in a jam: professionally, he couldn’t live with or without Duke Ellington. Gay in an intolerant time and homophobic musical subculture, he was lucky to be able to live and work openly behind the protective band leader. Yet Ellington took credit for Strayhorn’s music and made him work without a contract. Duke’s highest earning number, his signature tune, the holy grail of the era, Take the A Train, was, unknown to everyone at the time, written by Strayhorn, who never received any royalties. Ellington got rich. Strayhorn worked mainly to be able to work, without recognition or reward. But what work it is: Lush Life, Day Dream, Rain Check, Satin Doll, Chelsea Bridge, Lotus Blossom, Clementine, Johnny Come Lately, and many songs recorded by his dear friend Lena Horne, including Maybe, Something To Live For, and the double-edged Love Like This Can’t Last. As for his own “love like this,” within his first year in New York he and his boyfriend Aaron Bridgers moved in together and lived openly as a couple in Harlem, brave for 1940, when he was twenty-four. And, after a life of heavy drinking and constant smoking, when he died of cancer of the esophagus at fifty-one, he died not in Lena Horne’s arms as an oft-repeated story has it [she was in Europe], but with his partner Bill Grove. Although that was two years before Stonewall, Strayhorn worked in the early gay rights movement. Proving the depth of the prejudice he struggled against, even now the official Billy Strayhorn website completely de-gays him. We've had the prestigious biography for fifteen years; where is the Hollywood biopic?
Do you think Simon Amstell knew he was gay before or after he knew he was funny? At fourteen he appeared on a British morning chat show impersonating Dame Edna. The sweetness and malice stuck. Now 32, Simon's humor is sometimes branded "mean" or "horrible." (He prefers "cheeky.") True, he teased Amy Winehouse about her drinking, but as the host of Popworld from 2000 to 2006 he was often criticized for asking famous singers exactly what viewers wanted to know. One "notorious" incident was when Britney Spears appeared on the show long after rehab, court hearings to determine her stability, and public displays of erratic behavior, like shaving her head. Simon asked if she thought she'd "gone a bit nuts?" Britney cried, and people attacked Simon. To closeted Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes, Simon asked, "So, when are you going to come out, then?" Hayes said, "Excuse me?" Simon said, "You're obviously gay. Why won't you come out?" This was cut from the aired version. Hayes calls the incident pivotal in his finally coming out two years later and still refers to Simon as a "total prick." From October 2006 to January 2009, he hosted the comedy quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, winning top category prizes from the Royal Television Society, the British Comedy Awards, and the Broadcast Awards. The Times named the show (during Simon's era) one of the best forty programs of the decade. In 2010 he co-created, co-wrote and co-starred in Grandma's House, an award-winning sitcom in which his hapless, neurotic, adorable character, a former quiz show host named Simon, returns to live with his cheerful, middle class family. It's now filming its second season.
Born a count in one of northern Italy's six richest families, Luchino Visconti was adrift until he was thirty, when Coco Chanel decided he should work in movies and got him a job as third assistant director on a film by Jean Renoir. His own debut as a director came after seven years, during which time he learned the trade and dated the photographer Horst. Of his twenty films, most praised are The Leopard, The Damned, The Stranger, Rocco and his Brothers, with its open subplot of the boxing coach who pays young fighters for sex, and Death in Venice, from Thomas Mann's #1 of the all-time 100 best lgbt books. At sixty-nine, Visconti died of a heart attack in Rome, survived by his partner of more than ten years German actor Helmet Berger, who appeared in four of Visconti's films, most notably The Damned and Ludwig. (And here bare.) Sandy Leonard, who knows about such things, says Visconti worked through his opening-night jitters at Covent Garden by making out in an elevator with Alain Delon.
Before Melissa, before Ellen, before George Michael, before Adam, before Ricky, k.d. lang came out way back in 1992. Although that was fairly groundbreaking at the time, her coming out did nothing to hinder the sales of her multi-platinum album Ingenue, nor did it prevent her from winning another Grammy, being made an officer of the Order of Canada, or getting named to VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock n Roll and CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. In fact, she sparked a much angrier backlash in rural areas by supporting a vegetarian campaign called Meat Stinks. From 1997 to 2000 she took a break, fell in love with The Murmurs singer Leisha Hailey, moved to Los Angeles, and came back with her happiest album, Invincible Summer. Three years later she won her fourth Grammy for her collaboration with Tony Bennett and also released an album of covers by Canadian composers. Last year she released Sing It Loud, a cd with her Siss Boom Band, and appeared on Tony Bennett's Duets II, doing "Blue Velvet."
It's been 29 years this week since She's So Unusual, and she still is. In her new book Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir [Kindle] she reveals she was assaulted by a bandmember, his girlfriend, and the girlfriend's sister, and she stayed in the band. After her huge success, and her failure to sustain it, she considered killing herself. She has rainbow hair, she sang about Blueboy magazine, of course she loves The Gays! She started her True Colors Tour and True Colors Fund to get you some rights, dammit. Oh, and she says Madonna sped up the vocals on "Like a Virgin" to sound like her. Next June during Pride, she'll be 60.
Asked about her fierce queer advocacy she said,"Because I'm a friend and family member, okay? Because I'm not gonna stand by one of my best friends and watch them be discriminated against and have all their civil liberties stripped down -- or my sister or my cousin or whoever -- and just stand there and shut up. Up to 40% of the kids on the street are gay or transgender and they're only on the street because they're gay or transgender. We figured that is fixable. We could fix that. We could get that better."
One thing she's not, is Patti Smith. Cyndi's publisher Atria has done her no favors by aping the jacket of the National Book Award winner Just Kids. Don't they know she's an original?
For six years in his twenties Michael Feinstein was personal assistant / cataloger / surrogate son to Ira Gershwin and his wife, and now, at 56, he's written The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs [Kindle]. Feinstein is a noted archivist and surely the highlight of the new book must be the trove of Ira's memories from the heydey of The Great American Songbook, some of which are captured here for the first time. On yesterday's Fresh Air, Feinstein discussed another aspect of his memoir:
"There have always been rumors circulating about George's sexuality, and I addressed it because so many people have asked me about it, and it's important to the gay community to identify famous personalities as being gay. In the case of George, it's all rather mysterious because I never encountered any man who claimed to have a relationship with George, but a lot of innuendo.
"Yet Simone Simon said that she thought that Gershwin must be gay because when they were on a trip together, he never laid a hand on her, she said. Cecelia Ager, who was a very close friend of George's and whose husband Milton Ager was George's roommate, once at the dinner said, well, of course, you know, George was gay.
"And Milton said: Cecilia, how can you say that, how can you say that? And she just looked at him and said: Milton, you don't know anything."
Feinstein also says that although Ira was perfectly accepting of his friends, including Michael, being gay, the first recording he heard of the SF Gay Men's Chorus performing "The Man I Love" made him "very uncomfortable" and he asked for it to be turned off.
The hardcover of Michael's book comes with a CD of him singing the twelve songs of the subtitle, which include "Strike Up the Band," "'S Wonderful," "I've Got a Crush on You," "They All Laughed," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "Who Cares?," "I Got Plenty of Nuthin'," "They Can't Take Than Away from Me," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay."
His book is currently outselling Tuesday's other big gay releases, Camille Paglia's Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars [Kindle] and Daniel Mendelsohnn's Waiting for the Barbarians [Kindle].