Friday, October 07, 2005

Chicago’s my kind of city. It’s something in the air. The way the city moves. Aside from it being my hometown, it’s got a nice mix of the bi-coastal personality, with a healthy dose of the earnest Midwest thrown in for good measure. Hell, I also can’t forget the stunning number of great looking guys that come out of that city. Chicago’s a nice melting pot of color, suiting just about every taste, but especially if you’re into the corn-fed, Abercrombie look. I’d hang around Evanston (home of Northwestern Univ) just to get a gander of the good-looking grads. Is it hot in here or is it just Chicago?

Aside from the Windy City, this past week took me to Vegas once again. The only thing constant in that city is change, with new multi-million dollar hotels and condos going up everywhere, along with a new major restaurant/show opening every week. Word on the street puts Las Vegas in the same realm as Broadway, as musicals are flocking to the casinos to try their own luck with the high (and low) rollers in Sin City. Look for these new musicals to open in Vegas come 2006: Hairspray (The Venetian), Phantom of the Opera (The Venetian), Ave Q (Wynn), Spamalot (Wynn), Rent (NY-NY) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Aladdin). That’s in addition to the already-there musicals Mamma Mia (Mandalay Bay), We Will Rock You (Paris) and Saturday Night Fever (Sahara). The hot news from the entertainment front this week comes in the form of auditions for Cirque's newest show set to Beatles music at the Mirage. A friend of mine got his callback for later next week and i'm getting daily reports of what the show is supposedly like: Think Dr. Doolittle-meets-down-and-dirty.

"If i could... Fuck.... with the animals?" Oh dear.

The main event in Chicago was to see their permanent cast of Wicked, which has been playing to sold-out crowds since it opened in June. The cast is mostly comprised of Chicago-based actors, but the leads were brought in from New York. Ana Gasteyer (of SNL fame) played one of the witches and was fantastic in both voice and portrayal. She easily beat out the original actress who won a Tony for her performance in New York, Idina Menzel. Gasteyer has an incredible voice and really wrapped herself up in the character. She’s less of a ‘name’ in the show and really proves herself to be a performer first and foremost. It’s refreshing to see, especially in this age of stunt-casting with the producers not caring whether or not the actor has the chops to handle the role (... paging Melanie Griffin in Chicago the Musical...)

The set for Wicked is incredible. I also appreciated the real fear that the flying monkeys inspire in the audience. They’re pretty damned ugly. What’s really nice about this show is that the effects compliment the action rather than upstage it. Too many shows under the wing of Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber use their staging to cover up the incessantly bad book and lyrics. Wicked was a total package.

Michigan Avenue is now more or less the Rodeo Drive of Chicago: I couldn’t believe the amount of people, along with the shopping opportunity. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much of a shopper and pretty much dislike large crowds, but I stumbled into my first H&M clothing store and fell in love. Why the hell couldn’t they have come up with this concept sooner? Decently designed clothing at low prices. It’s perfect. For very little money, you can walk out of that place looking well put together and decently stylish. It’s usually the cut of the clothes that really show it’s price, but with button-downs and pants, H&M really puts out some quality stuff.

It wasn’t life changing, but it was close. That particular award goes to Uno’s Pizza.

I hadn’t seen the Art Institute’s collection in awhile, so I spent the day enjoying something I can’t get in San Antonio. The Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit was sold out (bummer), but the new additions to the American Wing were more than enough to keep me smiling. They had a nice photo retrospective of Matthew Barney’s work (husband of singer Bjork and one really creative mofo). Most of it were stills from his very popular Cremaster Cycle films. They had a few of their showstopper pieces out of loan (Wood’s American Gothic for example), but most of the collection remained intact, with Seurat, Warhol, Van Gogh and Degas most famous masterpieces out and about. People specifically ooh’ed and aah’ed over Hopper’s Nighthawks, which I’ve never found that interesting, especially considering how many ways it’s been bastardized with images of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean as stand-ins. I guess it’s too ‘art noir’ for my taste.

I saw a great deal of young people at the museum, which gave me some hope beyond my generation. It’s always pleasing to me to see people not see art as something difficult and ‘high-brow,’ but subjective and fulfilling. It’s inspiring to stand in front of Picasso’s Old Guitarist and realize you’re in front of simple human creativity on canvas. It’s also pretty cool to pick out 12 distinct faces in the texture of the oil in that particular piece that Picasso hid as self-entertainment. They’re not visible in reproductions, but if you happen to see it in-person, they really pop right out. I first learned of this by following behind a group of Institute students as they toured the galleries and took notes. An amazing experience.

Next door to the Institute is Millennium Park, so I spent a sunny afternoon making a total ass of myself in public. It’s my favorite pastime y’know. I will say that no matter how impressive Frank Ghery’s design work may be, he needs to start using new drafting software. Much like glass sculpture Dale Chihuly, he’s becoming a bit too saturated and his ‘look’ is pooping out. Added, I’ve also heard that in-person Ghery just about financially drains every drop from whomever is financing his project. Eh.

A trip to Chicago is never complete without a look at the incredible Marshall Fields (now owned by Macy’s). Now that’s a real department store along the same lines as Harrods in London. The architecture of the building is fantastic, going up over 8 floors, with a central space going through the middle all the way up. A Chicago tradition, along with the Christmas windows at Fields, is the gigantic tree they put up. It literally goes all the way up. It’s a conifer on steroids.

I got a day at home before heading out to Vegas for a night. Did the traditional laundry, tried to get caught up on email and spent most of the night paying attention to my dog and cat. They seem to really get along well and I now fear they conspire against me when I’m gone. I can almost feel them judging silently me as I type this...

Las Vegas was still standing. I headed into town for what basically turned out to be dinner, but enjoyed shacking up at Bellagio and eating at Prime. I’m a sucker for French Bordeaux and Prime has one of the best wine lists in Vegas. Spent some unlucky time at the blackjack tables and headed for a late night snack of Mandarin beef stew at Noodles. For anyone who cares about a room report about Bellagio after their recent renovation, things look MUCH better. The suites had been getting rough around the edges and in June they finally finished a total revamp of the rooms (while opening their new spa tower next door). The color schemes have been brightened, the windows widened and the bathrooms re-done with current fixtures. Service remains stellar as always.

As per Rolling Stone magazine:

What a pathetic ending it was for Pvt. Lynndie England, that little hillbilly twit with the rabbit cheeks and the upturned thumb who made the words "Abu Ghraib" infamous.

When she came out for her final curtain call last week -- a dreary court-martial at Fort Hood, a hot little armpit in the middle of Texas -- there was almost no one there. The courtroom gallery, just three rows deep to begin with, was less than half full. Her mom was there, holding the seemingly normal-looking baby Lynndie managed to squeeze out after All That Terrible Stuff came out last year. There were a couple of expert witnesses who came to say nice things at the sentencing hearing, a friend or two, and maybe a half-dozen yawning reporters, all on standby for Hurricane Rita duty. And what they all turned up to watch, ultimately, was little Lynndie up on the stand, pulling a fifth-rate courtroom-beggar act like an immigrant personal-injury plaintiff in a neck brace.

Lynndie's whole trial strategy had centered around mock-retard Method acting of the Sling Blade or My Left Foot school -- with the defendant staring off into space like a coma patient while her overmatched young military counsel tried to sell the five-member military jury on the idea that Lynndie was an "overly compliant personality" with "extraordinary deficits" who was not completely responsible for her actions in Iraq.

Accordingly, Lynndie spent most of the court-martial sitting with a stunned look, like she'd just been whacked in the face with a piece of plywood. The few times she did move, she'd pick up a piece of paper or a pen and stare at it quizzically for minutes, as though trying to figure out what it was.

When she finally took the stand, in the sentencing hearing, she spent most of her time trying to make the jury understand how hard life had been for a backward little dumb shit like herself.

Picked on by the other kids for being slow. Picked on for having a tomboy haircut. Picked on because she chewed funny in the school cafeteria. "The muscles in my jaw and my eyelids was different than other people, ma'am," she told her stammering attorney, Capt. Katherine Krul, during testimony.

And finally, in a last plea for mercy, Lynndie reminded the jury that she was now a mother -- she'd been knocked up in Iraq, after all, by fellow Abu Ghraib sadist Pvt. Charles Graner. She was dumb from birth and didn't have none of that book lernin', but she did manage to get banged in a latrine somewhere in Iraq in between prisoner extractions, and now, backward as she was, she was at least in the society of mothers.

Watching Lynndie's defense team play the baby card in her sentencing hearing was like listening to a zoologist explain why Koko the gorilla can't be separated from her pet kitten. Even a crippled life-form such as this, they seemed to be saying, can experience strong maternal emotions. And in their very last appeal they swung for the fences, asking Lynndie to explain for the benefit of the jury a certain picture of little Carter.

"Why'd you pose him in front of the American flag?" Krul asked, holding up the photo and smiling in the jury's direction.

Lynndie looked at her lap. "I guess," she whispered, "I'm still patriotic, ma'am." Then she swallowed and went back to I Am Sam land, drooping her eyes and fiddling with an imaginary something or other in her lap.

What bullshit, I thought. This girl goes off to fight a war but instead bangs some creep who she sees torturing people by the dozen every night; she's stupid enough to get her picture taken in the act of humiliating a whole race of people, inspiring an entire generation of martyrs for Allah and causing an international scandal -- and now we're supposed to go easy on her because she wraps her demon love child in an American flag? As if!

The jury -- a panel of five older male officers -- apparently disagreed. They came back with a sentence: three years. The over/under in the press pool had been nine. It was a slap on the wrist.

It would have been an outrage, if anybody had been watching. But nobody was, of course.

From the 'I couldn't get any gayer if i took a child bride and then impregnated her in public' files: Broadway belter Linda Eder just released her new CD on the world and the reviews have been fantastic. By Myself is Eder's new tribute album to vocal icon Judy Garland. She's going head-to-head with Streisand's new cd and winning (so far). Eder's reviews have been more positive and the album on whole has much better production and vocals.

What the hell? OJ Simpson was arrested recently for... are you ready for this... stealing a neighboring DirectTV signal and pilfering free cable. In an immediate statement to the press, his publicist said he's totally innocent and will soon be searching for the REAL hackers who did this awful crime.

Nick and Jessica are no more. The split came late last month and they will reportedly go public with the news mid-November. Clearly the most important news of our generation, i ask readers of 15 Minutes to think carefully about this question: Where were you when you found out?

*insert gratuitious eye-rolling*

For those frequent flyers reading, here's a personal letter that was recently sent to Continental's CEO Larry Kellner. I hope that Kellner has a good sense of humor or at the very least, a good secretary to intercept his mail:

Dear Larry,

Im sure you are aware that the Elite members of Continental are complaining about the lack of benefits. I suggest you implement the following suggestions for 2006:

1. The fasten seatbelt sign should only apply to non-elites. Elites should be free to wander the cabin at all times. The restriction on electronics during take-off and landing should not apply to Elites as well.

2. Elites seated in the exit row should not have to wait for passengers ahead of them to de-board the plane. They may utilize the emergency exit and deploy the slide. A limo should be awaiting them at decent to taxi them to the baggage claim.

3. During meals, Elites should be entitled to taking the desert of any non-elite passengers seated adjacent to them.

4. Every Elite should be entitled to a “Get out Jail Free” card. If the adjacent passenger requires an extender for their seatbelt, the Elite may present the card to a Flight Attendant and switch seats with any non-elite.

5. The process for upgrading Elites on the Standby Upgrade list should mimic that of a baseball announcer announcing who is coming up to bat. The Elite would pick his or her music at the beginning of the year.

6. Elites will be entitled to ride in the jumpseat in the cockpit if all other seats are full

7. On flights exceeding two hours, Elites will be afforded ten minutes of alone time in the forward lavatory to join or visit the "mile high club". Continental will not, however, be required to provide partners for this endeavor. Let's not get crazy here.

8. In the event of turbulence, Elites will be permitted to run around all willy-nilly. And if you've never tried running around "all willy-nilly", you really should.

9. Elites will be permitted to aisle-surf on takeoff once per calenday quarter. CO will provide the plastic trays for this.

10. Elites get extra attention from the really hot Flight Attendants.

11. In the event of a really rough landing, Elites will be entitled to give the captain a melvin at their discretion.

Wife beater and former porn-pup Mark Dalton will soon get back from mandatory vacationing at Club Fed, thus joining the real world and getting back into the close clutches of publicist/guru/swarthy overlord David Forest. While it's been reported on ATKOL that Forest plans to give Dalton time to transition back into the real world, why would someone under close watch (and on probation no less) try something as idiotic as the 'Meet the Stars' program, which in theory is nothing more than an obscenely-priced pimping service. Has Mark lost his sense while in the clink? Did he have any sense to begin with? Will laser rejuvenation of his mud garden put things back to 'pre-prison' standards? These are questions the public needs an answer to... I'm expecting a full write-up in USA Today sometime soon.

Whispers i'm hearing this week run the gamut... From well-known escorts recently finding out a less-than-negative HIV status to 15 Minutes scooping Filth2Go about Kathy Griffin's alleged seperation from hubby.

Gossip guru Billy Masters (of Filth2Go website fame) recently posted about seeing D-lister Kathy Griffin smooching up a storm with her 'ex,' prompting him to question the validity of her separation. 15 Minutes scooped this weeks ago by telling readers that this was nothing more than a PR stunt for Griffin's upcoming season of the D-List reality show on Bravo. While we still love Billy for his over-the-top talent, we must reveal our right as the real breakers of this story about La Griffin.

A former high-profile escort couple, now coupled with the frightening fact that they are HIV+ was the terrible news that hit my inbox yesterday. While i wish them only the best in this really tough time, i will say that letting their clients know ahead of time is the professional and sane thing to do.

He might be a media whore, but give this total top your undivided attention as he's having more than his fair share of financial difficulties. Sources close to the action say that this guy is not only pulling a Neverland Ranch by living paycheck-to-paycheck, but also begging investors to spot him up-front money for living expenses, designer clothing and a badly kept secret involving vials of white powder. Paging Kate Moss: I think we've found your roomie for rehab.

And now, this week's EYE CANDY. Enjoy :)

So Tom knocked Katie up and Harriet Miers isn't "right" enough for the conservatives? As Kate said in Lion in Winter, " In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible".


"Cowards die a thousand deaths, The valiant taste of death but once." -- William Shakespeare

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