Archive for the ‘gay’ Category
Lucky me that my 40th B-day landed on the same day as one of the most fabulous San Francisco parties of the year: “Halestorm.” It was a masquerade hosted by Ken Fulk at his SOMA interior design/staging studio, in honor of socialite Denise Hale. It also marked the creation of the Denise Hale Fund at the SF SPCA.
The entire cast of my current show “Pearls Over Shanghai” was invited to attend, in costume. (Perhaps Denise’s attendance at our March performance was research?) Other attending luminaries included the Newsoms, Michael Tilson Thomas, Ann Getty, Mark Leno, etc.
It was an unforgettable night, highlit by the yummy “Halestorm” cocktail (vodka, lime juice, thyme sprig+), and the parting gift, a breakfast McMuffin-sort of sandwich, wrapped in a branded wax paper sleeve. Perfection!
Entertainment included jazz singer Paula West, “Pearls…” cast member Connie Champagne, as well as faux queen Fauxnique. Upstairs we showed our moves on the dance floor.
Here are some of the priceless pix from our fun in the “Dressed to Kill” photobooth! As you can see, Chang gets luckier and luckier with each photo…but, by the end looses his seat to Russian femme fatale Petrushka (Veronica Klaus):
All the recent Weir/Lysacek mud-slinging, via the media is so silly and meaningless to me, I won’t even detail the ongoing bitch brawl here (and you likely already read it elsewhere). Clearly, they’re milkin’ this opportunity to increase their media presence (ie: “No press is bad press”).
BUT, when I came across this photo, I felt it said it all. They are in a sense forever linked, in their “rivalry,” and burgeoning off-ice, celebrity careers. So, what better way to to forever immortalize them as yin-yang/brothers/lovers/
soulmates (take your pick) in a fabulously flashy, fey, artistic portrait, ala Kings of 80’s Cheese: Hall & Oates?!
I’m not sure if NoMad Blogger created it or not (it appears not, as she included the zimbio.com credit), but I take no credit for this masterpiece. If you know the source (perhaps Toller Cranston?), please provide it, and I’ll gladly update the credit.
I now give you…
Alas, it’s true…I’m a mere 2 weeks away from this notorious milestone. I aim to make it as whimsical and festive as possible. I welcome a blog roast here on jcm! So, fire away…hit me with your best shot! Whatchyoo got on me? Make Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin proud.
def: noun. A facetious tribute, as at a banquet, in which the honoree is alternately praised and insulted.
Thanks (again) to Vinyl Divas, I discovered the singer “Gohar Gasparyan.” I youtubed her, simply because her name was so eccentric, and her mug not exactly the prettiest. I immediately smelled a camp classic discovery. Well, I was both wrong, and right. Turns out, she was very lovingly considered “The Armenian Nightingale.” It struck me that each country or culture seems to have their diva…the one considered to be the greatest, and to inspire and somehow embody the spirit of the nation.
Here’s a look at some of the biggies. Some of these names immediately came to mind, but a few took a little more digging. Some are genuine classics, and a couple (ie: Gohar and Yma) have one foot firmly (if unintentionally) in camp. One of the qualifications of a true diva is a title, nickname, or single name (ala Cher), as most all of them prove. Pathos is a requirement, and often a tragic life and/or death the deal maker for that highest rung of fame in posterity. In some cases, an operatic diva reaches this highest level of mainstream public adoration, but only in those cases did I include them here. Of course, the diva phenom and the gay sensibility are inextricably linked, and although that is surely part of my own inspiration, it is not the focus here.
Gohar Gasparyan (’24 – ’07): “The Armenian Nightingale”
“In ’48, she migrated to Soviet Armenia, along with hundreds of thousands of other Armenians from the Middle East.” Upon her death, she was billed “The greatest master of the Armenian Opera Theater, the People’s Artist of the USSR, the hero of the Social Labor, the National Artist of Armenia, the Mesrop Mashtots order-bearer, and the professor of the Yerevan State Konservatory after Komitas.” In her prime, she displayed beautiful control and range:
This video of “O beau pays“ from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots shows she had the chops, but no technical or interpretive greatness in western opera to qualify her as a true operatic legend outside of Armenian rep. She delivers priceless camp at 7:05, with a shameless peekaboo that will have you rolling! As with all true divas, she was still worshipped in her later years, when her voice and body were in decline, because her heart and expressivity were at their most potent (the accidental whistle on her “sh” consonants is precious).
When I originally read the “Stars On Ice” program lineup, the highlight, hands-down, was the prospect of a Cohen/Czisny performance of Delibes’ “Flower Duet,” from Lakmé. It was the only number that came close to the inventiveness of my “GAY Stars on Ice…“ lineup! (Yuka Sato’s “Clair de Lune” was also enticing.) Well, since I don’t plan to attend the show live, thankfully a youtube video of it has surfaced, however janky and incomplete it may be.
Unfortunately, it feels quite underrehearsed, which is odd for the two perfection queens of the ice. But, it’s still quite pleasing, considering their peerless, but comparable spiral positions. Hello Charlottes…I’ve missed you so! It’s quite the “Anything you can do, I can do better” routine. Good thing they don’t attempt any of those pesky jumps.
Also, my hopes for some hint at the implied (or projected?) lesbian subtext of the duet were dashed. No surprise there. Although, I’m still tempted to bill this the “Spiral Bump” routine (ala “Donut Bump“).
The full name of the scene is: “Viens, Mallika, les liens en fleurs…Sous le dôme épais.“ In the context of the opera, “Lakmé and her servant Mallika are left behind and go down to the river to gather flowers…As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench (while they bathe)” (Wikipedia). It is one of the examples of grand opera’s and mainstream culture’s obsessions at the time with eastern exoticism and orientalism (also evident in Madama Butterfly).
The duet was also famously used to set the tone in the beautiful, overtly lesbian scene with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, in “The Hunger.” It uses it to full effect.
Below is the libretti excerpt. What do you think? Is the lesbian subtext intended, or projected by the viewer or culture of the time?
Under a dome of white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On a river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning
Gently floating on it’s charming risings
On the river’s current
On the shining waves
One hand reaches
Reaches for the bank
Where the spring sleeps and
The birds, the birds sing.
Under a dome of white jasmine
Ah! calling us
There’s been SO much press and discussion about Johnny’s “STARS On Ice” exclusion, and of him wanting to produce his own alternative show, complete with his Lady Gaga. I didn’t trust that any producer could get this off the ground as a tour…MAYBE as a one-time tv special (Johnny, please prove me wrong!). So, with my wildest fantasies sparked, I took the bull by the horns, and dreamt up something truly “family friendly” (nudge nudge, wink wink): “GAY STARS On Ice & Friends!” Instead of creating an entirely new name, it’s a more effective rubbing-in-the-face to alter it slightly…and “RAINBOWS On Ice” just doesn’t have any ring to it.
Some would argue that “STARS On Ice” IS essentially “GAY STARS On Ice…” already, in everything but name. However, the reaction to Johnny’s request for inclusion has clued us into the fact that this is not the case, at least as per some of the mainstream target audience. No, surprisingly, Johnny hasn’t verbally “come out,” but he upholds “gay” where it counts, and I, and gay kids everywhere applaud him for that.
My concept is for an independent skating show that would travel to only the hippest urban spots, aka the biggest gay cities: SF, NY, LA, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Dallas, Miami, etc. Oh, and the top-billing sponsor (ala Smuckers) goes to the maker of Twinkies® and Ho-Hos®…not to mention Sno Balls®! Yes, that’s “Hostess’ GAY Stars on Ice!”
The programs and performances would tip the scales in favor of the campy, flamboyant, and festive. BUT, there would be plenty of true, heartfelt gravitas as well, with a strong nod to high-classical repertoire (ie: from full-length ballet, and opera). It would honor and encourage the young aesthetic and spirit, AND the old gays.
What would be forbidden? Typical Pro/EX-skating fare: cheesy-sexy-faker rock (ala Michael Weiss, Josef Sabovcik, and just about any American pair’s EX), alpha-male, testosterone-filled movie soundtracks (ala Eldredge), karate-inspired numbers (ala Stojko), vanilla hip-hop (ala Belbin & Agosto, and Evan Lysacek), and so on. Basically, all the stuff that makes me yawn and avoid most Pro shows altogether these days.
What makes something “gay“ (besides the skater)? In short…1) a triumphant rising-from-the-ashes return of a diva (see Bobek and Harding); 2) male face makeup and glitter (ie: Johnny doing Gaga); 3) pride anthems (see Sandhu and Sawyer’s programs); 4) a nod to the older gay generation(s), who paved the way and, yes, we know, had it much harder (see Cranston); 5) plenty of pop and opera diva icons; and all this:
Program (Act I)
Vogue — Complete Cast
If You Were Gay (from Avenue Q) – Brian Boitano & Brian Orser
One (LIVE, by Adam Lambert) – Denise Biellmann
Bad Romance (LIVE, by Lady Gaga) – Johnny Weir
It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green (by Kermit) – Rudy Galindo
Guess Who I Saw Today (by Nancy Wilson, AMAZING video!) – Weir, Gregory
You Gotta Have a Gimmick (from Gypsy) – Tonya Harding
Sag Mir Wo die Blumen Sind (Where Have All the Flowers Gone?) (Marlene Dietrich) – Katarina Witt
Sisters (from White Christmas) – Stéphane Lambiel & Rudy Galindo (featuring a throw triple axel)
Act II: Le Lac Des Cygnes (from Swan Lake) – ALL the boys in tutus (ala Les Ballets du Trockadero)
Perhaps to cope with the gravitas and intensity of the Vancouver Games, I’m feeling the need to REALLY unwind and revel in some whimsy and trash. (Yeah, Yu-Na wasn’t the only one who was feelin’ the pressure peeps!)
First up, Current TV’s fabulous That’s Gay: Johnny Weir tribute, complete with an Official Sports’ Sexuality Spectrum infographic, showing (straight) football at one end and (gay) skating at the other (I’m gaga for infographics!):
Shocking Skater Faces
Next up, SCARY skater faces from Vancouver (I love Shen & Zhao too much to post the #1 photo of them.) This album been floating around, but one just can’t get enough of these. Here are the best.:
Should Siblings Ice Dance Together?
This album sure makes you question whether siblings should indeed ice dancer together. Particularly, in the Tango Romantica Compulsory Dance, selected for Vancouver, where chemistry and heat are required. Vancouver had four such teams: Kerrs, Zaretskys, Reeds, and Beiers. Here, the Kerrs turn up the heat.:
So, being a total graphic design geek, I was fascinated to discover that jcm’s stats started looking an awful lot like Whistler during the Games (art mirroring life?). Yes, the Olympics were a huge shot in the arm for jcm, and likely every skating/sports blog. The day of the men’s SP (February 16) was my busiest day yet. Now, enjoy the Canadian landscape, as the athletes play upon my stats!:
jcm Goes Down (no, NOT that way!)
On February 18th, WordPress.com was down for 110 minutes, taking over 10.2 million blogs with it. Did you hear that…“10.2 million blogs.” When I read that, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had NO idea the scale of this phenomenon, and this is just one blog server!
I also learned the following: “(WordPress.com has) seen a meteoric rise over the past 4 years with thousands of new blogs still being added every day. According to Quantcast, around 220 million people visit one or more WordPress.com blogs every month.”
My goodness! Can you imagine the amount of revenue that would generate, if all these blogs were business-oriented, OR how many mouths that would feed, if all that blogging time were translated into food or services! Maybe I should stop blogging, and start…
I’m battling a terrible cold and sore throat. Staying up past midnight nightly watching these Games likely hasn’t helped. Why, oh why is the left coast on such a delay? More advertising dollars for NBC? Pathetic! I’m sure a lot of potential viewers drifted away because of this poor decision.
When I sat down to watch the opening, all I could think of was how unlucky Vancouver was to have to follow Beijing. Beijing spent over $300+ million, and have a culture that is already primed to partake in such a large-scale, perfect orchestration of the masses. However, I respected Canada’s aim to keep it less expensive (even if that still meant a walloping $30+ million). After all, the Olympics are important for national pride, and international athletic competition and camaraderie, but it shouldn’t replace feeding mouths and rebuilding cities.
“We Are the World”…again, REALLY? At least J-Hud was in the mix, making it a bit more legit. In the initial, historic portion of the ceremony, I really appreciated the strong presence of the indigenous native nations, particularly the aboriginal people, and the nod to their cultural impact.
The greeter minions (see photo, in background), decked out head to toe in snowy white, looked like rather vacuous members of an Eskimo cult, or life-sized “It’s a Small World…” mascots, courtesy of Disney. One in particular caught my eye on multiple close-ups. He was highly entertaining, and had the infectious enthusiasm and gloriously bad dance moves of one of The Wiggles. I was reminded that believing you’re really good is half the battle in convincing others that you actually are. The female greeters also called to mind the great ole winter icon Suzy Chapstick.
In the parade of athletes, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many figure skaters bearing their flags: Kevin van der Perren (Belgium), Julia Sebestyen (Hungary), Alexandra Zaretsky (Israel), Song Chol Ri (N. Korea), and medal contender Stéphane Lambiel (Switzerland)! NOONE waved their flag with more fey elegance than Stéphane. I was struck by some of the more memorable athlete names: Hubert von Hohenlohe (sounds like a drunk ‘n merry Austrian prince), and Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson (what were his parents thinking?)!
K.D. Lang was channeling Wayne Newton. She sounded fantastic singing Leonard Cohen’s (unfortunately overdone) “Hallelujah.” Her voice is very well-preserved, after 25+ years as a recording artist. The digital video images projected on the floor were stunning, especially when a simulated school of orcas (spouting out their air holes) passed across the ocean surface. The artistic highlight of the ceremony was the aerial dance “Who Has Seen the Wind”, performed by Montreal’s Thomas Saulgrain, to Joni Mitchell’s acoustic recording of “Both Sides Now.” It was spiritually transcendent, filled with sincere wonder, and his journey reminded me a bit of Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.”
The most compelling moment was the minute of silence, for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (Team Georgia in photo, above right). How rare it is for a group of that enormity to share in silence, and what a reminder it was that modern society works far to hard to fill up all the still or quiet moments in life. Silent meditation is so rife with meaning…as much or more so than activity. Near the end, Measha Brueggergosman did her best Jessye Norman impersonation, complete with protruding neck veins, unhinged jaw, and mother nature/goddess delivery. I enjoy her art, and appreciated her inclusion, but this presented her as an operatic caricature.
Overall, the host country did a great job of milking their budget, as it didn’t feel cheap at all, and the silly mishaps were easily forgiven.
Opera in the Park: Redux
Just when the dust began to settle on the DIVA Totem Pole, the 2002 SF Opera in the Park rolled around. Knowing the bar was high, and wanting to make it even more fun for friends, I took a different strategy: interactivity!
I sourced the most iconic and expressive diva portraits I could get my hands on to create quickie cut-out masks. They had to be high-resolution enough to print out cleanly at actual size. This was during my heyday of designing the SF Ballet Nutcracker collateral. I had just used a similar mask idea for their direct mail brochure, with many of the characters from their production (but with eye holes, rather than mouth holes).
The Divas & Divo
I dug up hot shots of Birgit Nilsson’s icy Met Turandot (complete with one ton bejeweled crown), Regina Resnik’s tragic Klytemnestra, and June Anderson mugging in a photoshoot. But, I branched out a bit too, including Wagnerian basso Hagen (with imposing helmet, singer unknown), as well as two popular divas: 1960’s “Color Me…” Barbra, and AI Kelly “Moments Like This” Clarkson.
The pictures make me laugh out loud every time I rediscover them. The lips look positively labial. I reigned over the proceedings here as Turandot. A Streisand fanatic friend immediately got his paws on Babs (and even did her mannered hands, see above). My friends brought these TO LIFE!
As I sign off for now, I share with you Nilsson singing Turandot’s ruthless aria “In Questa Reggia” (and lookin’ like buttah) at Arena Macerata in ’71, for some bonus dementia!
Fanantics at Opera in the Park
I was just reminiscing with a friend about one my most fond demented personal operatic moments. In anticipation of SF Opera in the Park (1999), I wanted to come up with something to match the spirit of the lifesized cardboard Callas figure an opera queen had used to stake out his picnic site in a previous year (at right, from the EMI Unknown Recordings ad campaign). I thought…what might create some buzz, embody my fanaticism for my diva(s), and yet be practical enough to be carried down to Golden Gate Park?
My creation: the DIVA Totem Pole, which I fashioned from portraits of my top seven favorites. A friend or two were initially embarrased (especially during the morning walk into the park: a parade of shame?), but by the end of the day, I think they too fell under its irresitable spell. Once we reached Sharon Meadows, we marked our territory by posting it in the ground. We had a ball in the shadow of the totem: drinkin’, noshin’, ‘n hangin’.
Thankfully, SF Chronicle Senior Writer Bob Graham was in attendance that day, and was also wooed by the totem’s magic. He did a casual on-site interview with me. The next morning, I rushed down to retrieve the newspaper from my mailbox, quickly opened the Datebook section, and was thrilled to see my local color included in his review of the day: Fresh Air and Free Arias in the Park. Best of all, it included the listing of the divaaaaahhhs, as well as my own hilarious self-billing: a “part-time professional countertenor now on sabbatical.”
The totem features, from the bottom 7. Renée Fleming (with David Daniels inset), 6. Elisabeth Rethberg, 5. Christa Ludwig, 4. Montserrat Caballé, 3. Eleanor Steber, 2. Lisa Della Casa, 1. LEONTYNE PRICE. You can see, although I am also devoted to Kunst Divas, I do favor Stimm Divas, when push comes to shove. That’s right, no Callas, although I admire her art greatly!
Numbers 7 through 6 would be different now, BUT 5 though 1 would remain quite intact, and La Price would still reign supreme. I felt compelled to include a living/performing diva (and countertenor!), and was very into Renée (ie: her Eschenbach Four Last Songs recording) and Daniels at the time. Next to their portraits, it read “BONUS DIVAS: STILL ON STAGE”. Stemme, Melton, Borodina, or Baltsa would likely topple both of them now as the active divas, were I to revisit this adoration. And, Eileen Farrell would HAVE to make a climb up the totem too.
Next up…Diva Masks at SF Opera in the Park (2002)!