Monday, March 10, 2008
As a reformed, quasi-liberal with a tendency for gnashing teeth, it's become crystal-clear that there is little safe haven left within the media for a modern-day moderate. Sure, the 'fair and balanced' banner sounds nice in concept, but when push comes to shove (or, as I like to say, when 'Oberman comes to O'Reily'), every one's got an agenda and as long as they've got an audience, you're going to hear their opinion... Whether you like it, or not.
I refuse to read the New York Times anymore. Not only is the Sunday edition four-fucking-dollars, but it's quickly become the anti-Hearst Corp newspaper, constantly stacking the deck in favor of anything anti-administration. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Miss Manners, but as a journalism student, you're taught to write a good news story without the contamination of opinion: You simply are getting the story across in the most straight-forward and non-biased way possible. A sheer impossibility nowadays, where newsrooms confuse themselves for policy makers on a routine basis, coloring the general public with their views.
And, as a footnote, let me go on record that giving up my Sunday Arts section was akin to having a mid-life circumcision. If I can't keep up with what washed up D-lister is going into Rent this week, my life just may come crashing down around me. It sends chills down my spine to think I'll never be able to read another glowing review on performance-artist Matthew Barney and his latest installation of a shit-like substance on pristine white canvas at the Guggenheim, while Bjork sings in Icelandic somewhere in the distance. How... Will... I... Ever... Survive.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the liberal media is ruining the 'fine' job the Bush Administration is doing: It seems Bush is quite content with ruining his own legacy with his now 18% approval rating. What concerns me about this is that the bulk of American people digest this political mumbo-jumbo from outlets like CNN and Fox, thinking it's the gods-honest-truth. They then spit out these crackerjack figures and facts to others, creating a genuine-bonifide clusterfuck of what is and what is not 'the truth.'
I guess this all came to a boil for me when watching the insanity surrounding the Obama/Clinton Super Tuesday 'will-she-or-won't-he' faceoff. For me, in times of great stress, I turn to the absurd to keep my sanity. An example you ask?
Well, like any good '80s/John Hughes movie, I really think the two should settle this thing on the dance floor. Clinton will wear a Members-Only gold lame' jacket, shredded leg-warmers and an off-the-shoulder number, while Obama will rock a tight pair of corduroy shorts and some blue eyeliner. Whoever can re-create the last scene from Dirty Dancing best will win the nomination.
I honestly think Hillary could lift Obama like this...
Naturally, the winner would use the campaign slogan 'Nobody Puts (Clinton/Obama) in the Corner.' Since Patrick Swayze currently has the career longevity of Dannon yogurt, I'm sure he'll be up for a little general election stumping. From there, he can resume his cycle of going into Chicago The Musical and working on re-writes of Roadhouse, part VIII.
I have a solid feeling that fancy footwork is well out of reach for Republican nominee John McCain. Actually, by the looks of it, McCain's people may want to approach FiberCon about sponsoring his general election run. It could really make the slogan 'John McCain gives a shit about America' the truth-in-advertising pluck to take the election in a clean sweep. Either that, or have every voting octogenarian in America buying Depends Undergarments en-mass.
The other day, while reading through the local newspaper, I saw a calender listing for the San Antonio Compulsive Eaters group. Not that being a compulsive eater in itself is all that funny, but when the listing said they were having their monthly potluck, I nearly wet myself.
A POTLUCK DINNER AT A COMPULSIVE EATERS MEETING? What kind of backwards, sick, Monty Python-inspired shit is this? Ripe for ridicule, I actually wanted to attend to see what people brought, but stopped myself in fear that, if found out, I may be tied down and covered in Crystal hot sauce. Instead, I resigned myself to imagining a particularly solicitous Girl Scout setting up cookie shop just outside the meeting. What do these people bring to the potluck... A packet of Splenda?
Yes, I laughed. I'm still laughing.
Spending a few days in New York is always a pleasure, especially when the weather cooperates as it did. Mid-'50s and perfectly sunny. It made hailing a cab practically a crime.
So incredibly bland, it makes Neil Sedaka look anti-establishment...
I caught a couple new films: Vantage Point and George Romero's Diary of the Dead. While I wouldn't consider either to be Oscar-contenders, they were both entertaining in their own, unique ways and by 'unique' I really mean you should consider having a few gin and tonics before viewing. Vantage Point is a typical ensemble who-dun-it, with it's only saving grace coming in a very short scene with Sigourney Weaver. Everyone else in the film is a dud, but Weaver spices up her scenes with real skill and her underlying knowledge that she's getting a good paycheck for very little onscreen time.
Oh, that can't be sanitary. This is a real Purell moment...
It's a real Showgirls kind of film. Yes, THAT Showgirls. Let me explain: Everyone (but Weaver) overacts like they just graduated from the Poseidon Adventure School of Drama. She's the lone actor up there who knows exactly what she's in: Another bad vehicle for Dennis Quaid to prove how he's not too old to fall off buildings. Weaver is the equivalent to Showgirls' Gina Gershon here: She plays this one for all its worth and bails early in the film. I just hope she got a large trailer and decent fruit basket out of it.
The working title of this film was once 'Ipecac: The Final Frontier.'
Diary of the Dead was a bit more interesting: It constantly winked at itself, using the same overdone conventions that George Romero invented back when making Night of the Living Dead. The major downfall of the whole film is that Romero holds his audiences hand too much, practically beating you over the head with his symbolism hammer. WE GET IT GEORGE: War is bad, consumerism is evil, technology will be the death of our spirit. Just cut the political crap and let's see more gunshot wounds. Scary movies have always been escapism, pure and simple, and when horror directors start making 'message' films, it's just not jolting anymore. It's depressing. It's really the comb-over of horror films: When the audience knows it's practically laughable, but the director ignores it and plows ahead anyway in search of some overall redeeming value.
I had the chance to see three fantastic stage performances: Nathan Lane in David Mamet's November, Patti LuPone in Gypsy and Kelli O'Hara in the revival of South Pacific.
Let me start by saying that I've always loved anything that Mamet has written. In my book, he's a genius with language, one of the few playwrights who makes the punctuation in his scripts truly the most important factor. Learning to 'speak Mamet' is as nuanced as learning to properly speak in Shakespearean pentameter: You quickly learn to respect every comma, period and pause.
So, with all of this weighing on me, I was somewhat skeptical that schtick-meister Nathan Lane could handle himself, even if it was a comedy. Damn, if I wasn't wrong. REALLY wrong.
Lane was ferocious, biting into every sentence with incredible comic disdain and proving why he's one of the few comic stage actors out there who can easily carry a one-man-show. While this wasn't a singular performance (with great performances by Laurie Metcalf and Dylan Ross), Lane did have 90% of the dialogue and handled it like a pro. It's comedy that's timely, political and very, very funny.
Since South Pacific hasn't been revived since the original Broadway production in the late '40s, the Lincoln Center decided to undertake this incredibly complex musical. I was there for the first preview and while they still needed to tinker with the overall timing of the show (it ran at nearly 4 hours), the cast is solid. Kelli O'Hara gave a complex performance for so early in the run, while her male counterpart (and opera singer) just knocked me over with his overall character. It's evident she knows from the second she steps on-stage that she knows who she is (as Nellie). Her fantastic star-turn only compliments a strong ensemble. Lt. Cable is played by the formerly-wholesome Matthew Morrison, who's been seen in the original casts of both Hairspray and Light in the Piazza. He's always been a reliable leading man, if not a bit on the impish side.
I'm not sure if it's a positive thing that his shirtless scenes are getting more press than his characterization, but he's yet to find a proper way to put across some of his more dramatic material in the show. As it stands, it's almost laughable when his untimely second-act death takes place and the audience is neither shocked, nor do they really seem to care. Not good.
However, if the Tony committee decides to present a special award for 'Best Use of Abs on an Otherwise Skeletal Actor,' Morrison would be a shoe-in.
Loved seeing Danny Burstein (formerly of Drowsy Chaperone), Lisa Howard (original cast of Spelling Bee) and Matt Caplan (Rent) all working in the ensemble and showing why they're the talented professionals they are.
I can't forget to mention how incredibly well-played, professional and evocative the orchestra is when handling this incredible score. The Lincoln Center's unique sliding stage presents the perfect opportunity for the musicians to show their chops. It's insanely entertaining and if you're not a fan of this era of Broadway music, you will be by the end of the evening. If this makes a transfer to a proper Broadway house, look for tickets early. It's gonna be this season's tough-to-get ticket.
LuPone in Gypsy: Can it really get any more gay than that? It was one of the few shows I've been to where the men's room line at intermission was eons longer than the ladies, forcing me to run to Juniors across the way to take a leak. Seriously, if you'd have added a happy hour drink special at the bar, some cosmo glasses and a chorus boy in go-go mode, it would have been like any gay bar. I'm not so sure that's a good thing.
Based on seeing that the bathroom stalls were made of wood, keep an eye out for the St. James Theatre gloryhole on Squirt in the near future.
For those who had the chance to see Patti LuPone as Rose at City Center last season, I can say that her performance has only gotten more layered, biting and eerily jaw-dropping. Perhaps it's a cliche, but I truly see this as the performance of her career. From the minute she stepped through the audience, shouting 'sing out, Louise!', she had the audience in the palm of her hand. Sure, it was very pro-Patti crowd to begin with, but the response was just overwhelming.
This was also their first preview. While most of the City Center cast came back to reprise their roles, it was a whole new stage, some new set pieces and that same damned stuffed lamb. Great new lighting design. They kept the orchestra on-stage, behind a duo of scrims, all well-mic'd and doing great justice to this incredible music. If you enjoy a strong brass section, this is definitely going to be your show.
Gypsy is a vocal powerhouse for anyone in the show, giving little song rest to everyone on-stage and requiring not only a belty disposition, but strong acting skills. LuPone is in fantastic voice, giving Rose some smoky, jazz-influenced notes, while offering her trademark sing-it-to-the-rafters, floor shaking belt when needed. Never before at the theatre had I seen repeated standing ovations after mid-show songs: This was one of those performances. LuPone's 'Roses Turn' was a revelation. The sheer veracity of her character exploded off of the stage, giving you a real feeling that in addition to perhaps being over-ambitious, Rose was truly a woman in the throes of madness. An incredible transition to watch.
She got a good 5 minute standing ovation for the song. The very definition of a show-stopper: Patti LuPone is one of the few, if only, women on Broadway in the last 20 years who can truly handle this kind of role while easily carrying the show on her talent alone. The definition of star power is when a performer can stand alone on a stage and fill every inch, effortlessly: LuPone has it in spades.
Now that's not to say that the rest of the cast didn't pull their own weight: Laura Benatti, taking on Louise with fantastic emotional transition, is just plain stunning when she discovers the power of being Gypsy Rose Lee. Tony Yazbek as Tulsa was a welcome song-and-dance man, who's talent is tailor-made for bigger and better roles. Boyd Gaines reprises a thankless Herbie, creating a character the audience feels for completely for while understanding his underlying rising anger. He's incredible. Leigh Ann Larkin plays Dainty June with a whole new level of cynicism and bitterness from the City Center production (and it works brilliantly). Her duet with Benatti in Act I ('If Mama Were Married') is a vocal showstopper.
Plain and simple: Go see this show. If you're in, around or headed to New York City, snag a cheap ticket while previews are going (through mid-April). You'll be glad you did. This is going to be one of those shows that people are talking about for years to come.
It looks like it's going to be another insane spring of travel, with current plans taking me to Spain, UK, Germany, Mexico, Macau, Fiji and Australia. In the middle of the international stuff, I'll be in New York City, Chicago, Key West, Miami, Palm Springs, DC and Las Vegas. After totaling up my airline mileage last year, it topped 287,000 miles and by the looks of things, I just may beat my own record for 2008.
Sure, my goals are somewhat skewed. This I already know. I sometimes compare acquiring commercial airline miles to being an abused housewife: They get hit, but just keep coming back for more. Since I'm not always in a position to travel privately, getting some elite status with an airline (or 6) is your best bet for not being raped by them when you're in crisis mode at O'Hare. In my travels, I've also found that in the event an airline employee doesn't immediately recognize your powerful, all-knowing frequent flyer glow, you can always use your plastic elite card as a weapon and paper-cut them to death.
And now for a quick lesson on personal responsibility...
In reading through this week's issue of The Advocate (issue 1004), their front page story proclaims that Vegas is the new gay mecca. Strangely enough, when interviewing man-on-the-street style, it seems that locals feel quite the opposite, going as far as calling Las Vegas a haven for 'straight men who come to gawk at female strippers.'
Is editor-in-chief Anne Stockwell off of her meds again or did The Advocate really devote this much page space to what amounts to a very big ad for the Paris Hotel and Casino? Not only did they stoop to featuring dick & drag in their 'exclusive' photoshoot, but they went on to feature a faux-wedding between two gay men at The Palms.
How incredibly romantic: Getting hitched in a Maloof-tacky suite by a rabbi who can't legally do anything of value for the two. This just makes so little sense to me. I'd instead recommend a dual power-of-attorney, save the money you're blowing on living like rock stars and put it into a long term CD. That cash will come in handy when you're both screaming at each other in small claims court over who gets the micro-fiber sofa from Pottery Barn.
Okay. So I'm being a little bitter. It's nothing personal, but that lack of common sense irks me. I find it irresponsible that The Advocate is making this proclamation without having spent enough time in the fruit loop to know it's horribly under-funded, generally falling apart and a homophobic place to vacation. It's like taking a giant step back in time, where the bars are secluded, smoky, window-less boxes, best kept under wraps and spoken about in hushed tones. Whether or not the casinos have gay-specific advertising, keep in mind that it's not the lifestyle they embrace: It's your money.
And you thought Vegas was bad when the mob ran it? Hell no. Conglomerate corporations are much, much worse. You're a number. A big, gay number. Embrace it.
I don't preach against going to Sin City, but simply request that my fellow gay brethren realize where they are: The middle-America Monte Carlo, where all that glitters isn't necessarily gold. Use some common sense and don't let publications like The Advocate lead you down the primrose path. That may just be the fastest way to the nearest emergency room.
Up next on 15mm: Look for my review on Bette Midler's new show at Caesars Palace, my savant inability to figure out how to use my new iPod touch, how Willam-Sonoma's Le Cube hooked me on caffeine and why LL Cool J fixed my Dell laptop in the AA Admirals Club at LAX. Who'da thunk that LL moonlights as an assistant manager at a Best Buy's Geek Squad?
Look for new BN-images, now uploaded onto the Google Gallery... I'm not sure what's going to last longer: My hair length or my patience for having it long. Here's a little preview:
Not bad for a 47-year old, eh? *wink*
Until the kvetching continues... Thanks for tuning in,