Sunday, April 06, 2008

Deep in thought... Or, perhaps waiting for a cab in South Africa.

If listening to email response is any way to judge how someone is doing, whether it be in selling a product or one's self, I suppose I've got some 'splaining to do regarding the past few editions of 15mm. It's obvious that the style of writing has changed, but even I was a little surprised at the outpouring of commentary about it: Both good, bad and ugly. People email about missing the inside gossip. They say that if they wanted to hear about 'real issues' that they'd read Daily Kos or Huffington Post and I've been told repeatedly that my 'cheery' outlook has morphed into a cynical, off-color persona that doesn't come across well. It seems that some readers want more fluff and much less commentary...

It's my blog. If you always want sunshine and lollypops, why not start your own blog and see just how many people show up. Your family doesn't count. Neither do your friends from the electronics department at Wal-Mart.

And for the record, that was a rather cheery 'fuck you.' Just to clear things up.

Seriously though, I'm sure that everyone reading is aware that along with creating the 'Benjamin Nicholas' persona came a certain amount of holding back on my own views and opinions. It's the nature of this business: You're selling an image and in the process, having to follow-through with the 'character' for the duration of time spent. It's always the constant, whether you're having a fantastic or terrible day. For me, it's not really a complaint at all, but simply the bare-bones truth for you to do with as you want. As with any relationship formed, over time you feel more comfortable just laying it all out there and knowing full-well what the reaction will be. I'm lucky in the respect that just about everyone I see knows who I really am, even if the readers of 15mm are getting a watered-down version of the real deal.

Well, that's going to change. Now.

I said it the past about 2007, but damned if 2008 isn't going to be the year of the 'honesty colonic.' I plan on taking 15mm into new absurdist directions while continuing to entertain with my off-beat brand of cynical humor: Because let's face it, there is way too much good material out there, dunced daily by fellow bloggers, politicians, preachers, D-listers and push-overs.

A working model of said 'honesty colonic.'

So, read along as always, laugh-out-loud and if you happen to get offended by anything I say, just realize that you're probably not alone. Start a support group, deal with it and laugh a little more.

I'm sitting here, writing this week from the Sky deck of a Princess Cruise ship, overlooking the unwashed (but certainly not uneaten) masses below, listening to Ann Hampton Callaway on my iPod and thinking to myself Jesus Christ, I'm glad the ships pools are saltwater or else we'd have mass drownings. The typical rule-of-thumb is that a cruise passenger gains 2 lbs per day on a 7-day cruise, leaving him looking something like a cross between Rush Limbaugh and a Buick Enclave. I can imagine that a small portion of women on-board will need an additional passport to get back into the United States: One for themselves and one for their newly-minted, gigantic ass.

Even with valid identification, this giant ass cannot be taken back to the states...

I'm keeping myself less-depressed by doing two-a-days at the on-board gym, spinning in the morning and working weights later in the day. Keeping busy on most mainline cruise ships is a chore in itself, considering the most entertaining thing they offer is a choice between country line dancing and the oh-so-fun-it-should-be-illegal napkin folding demonstration. These are activities that would make a cocaine addict go narcoleptic. By the third day at sea, I was praying for sniper fire when the deputy cruise director made on-stage announcements.

In addition to sweating, I'm also finding solace in randomly popping up in strangers on-board family pictures. I basically sneak into large group photos and make the most obscene faces possible, leaving the group to later wonder who the hell was that and if he was from your father's side.

Yes, the caged animal gets restless and finds his own entertainment in strange places.

Enough with the cruise talk: Let's jump right into the latest chestnut from Bette Midler and her recently-opened show at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas.
Before I begin, let's run down some factual numbers...

* The show production cost is nearly $11 million.
* Midler was paid $150 million for 150 performance nights a year.

* Her merchandising cut is 55% of what's sold in her namesake store.

* All of the 30 backup dancers are female (along with the her three 'Harlettes').

* Midler has a 17-piece orchestra behind her, along with a 5-piece 'Kiss My Brass' section.

* The show is exactly 90 minutes.

* There are 5 live animal sacrifices in the show and Bette drinks the blood of a virgin sheep.

Okay, so the last factoid is a boldfaced lie. Just checking to see if you were still paying attention.

So, with all of this hoopla for Midler's mainstage return and talk of her show versus the Quebecci wax museum that just vacated, what's the real deal on spending nearly $300 for orchestra seating? Across the board, I'd say save your money and spend it on a nice hooker while you're in Vegas: Lighting design and Sophie Tucker jokes aside, you're going to get a whole lot more bang for your buck with the hooker. Take that as you will.

As my friend Willam said the other day, Bette's show is a little like eating flan: If it's bought and paid for at a resturaunt, I wouldn't pass it up, but it's not something I'd make for myself at home.

Proving once again that vocal power is no match for a really entertaining camel-toe...

Midler's show opens with a simulated tornado, projected on a massively distracting high-def screen spanning the stage. While the screen upstaging the performer also happened in Celine Dion's horse-and-pony show, at least she had the creative clout of Cirque Du Soleil to fully fill the stage around her with pretty pictures. Bette's nearly a one-woman show, scampering from one end of the stage to another, confirming her 'old' age and how her cocktail of choice now involves a shot of Ensure. Total shtick. Only works half of the time.

I was a little shocked at how small overall production value was for not only a headliner, but for a someone who's been known to use more on-stage props than Carrot Top. Consider that today a Broadway musical costs a minimum of $10 million and is fit into a theatre that holds much less than 1500 people. The Colisseum at Ceasars can easily seat 4000 and has a stage that's nearly four times the size of Broadway's largest house (The Gershwin), so doesn't common sense dictate that for Midler's show to have some real chutzpah, it's going to take a few more sheckles to fill the stage?

Also consider that Celine Dion's creative production alone cost $150 million. This severe money differential can only mean one of two things: Either Caesars is setting Midler up for a fall or that they're using the same finance people as the Bush administration. Either way, it's a little scary.

Her voice was in mediocre form, especially for only having been doing the show for such a short amount of time. Midler went flat, sharp and mush-mouthed, delivering what amounted to a tired performance from a woman who (IMO) bit off a bit more than she could chew. Her most passionate moment of the evening was singing When a Man Loves a Woman, sending her crew of showgirls off-stage, dropping the lighting pyrotechnics and simply singing the shit out of a song, centerstage and really selling it. A beautiful moment.

Sometimes less is more... Even in Vegas.

I think she's experiencing the very real threat of 'Vegas Throat' in her day-to-day life, which is ultimately affecting her performance. The deadly combination of dry air, dust and Danny Gans's over-inflated ego severely limit vocal range which is exactly why when Ceasars built The Colisseum they created special air ducts that deliver warm, moist air to the stage, as well as to the massive 3,500 square foot star dressing room. I'm not sure what Midler is doing to stay moist when she's not at the theatre, but more needs to be done to prevent her from forming nodes on her vocal chords. I'd recommend a shirtless picture of Ryan Phillipe, but what keeps me moist and what keeps her moist are probably two very different things.


Choreographer for the show is former '80s pop-star Toni Basil, who, in the past, has done some pretty impressive work for Broadway, but totally phones it in on this one. What she doesn't rehash from any other Vegas showgirl line, she outright steals from Susan Stroman, the Tony-award winning choreographer of Crazy For You, Contact and The Producers. While I did think the bit involving a kick-line of pastel-colored Rascal scooters was cute, it's been done before. I expected a little more creativity, perhaps even a tap number. Something... anything... to differentiate itself from everything else on the strip.

Her song list isn't bad. Most of the greatest hits are there, with Midler staying away from most of the things too taxing for her voice (like anything from The Rose). The latent homosexual in me would have enjoyed her going into a few things from the made-for-television version of the musical Gypsy she did about 10 years ago, but no dice. Her choice in casting the new 'Harlettes' was spot-on, as the three women danced up a storm and blended perfect vocals. They were the highlight for me: They had infectious energy, razor-sharp diction and could easily go toe-to-toe with Midler in performance skill.

Maybe... Just maybe... they were too good. The cardinal rule of being back-up is to never confirm how much more talented you are than the star. Sad, but true. That's what happened to Madonna's back-up singers: They could have easily had successful solo careers, but once people knew they had such massive talent, Madge made sure that they were shipped off to Brazil for sex-changes and questionable Botox. They came back looking like Burt Reynolds and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reynolds, now looking totally Asian, is seen here on some red carpet...

Speaking of duct tape and desperation: Have you seen the new cover of Vanity Fair yet? Let me share...

So, do you think she's just injecting herself with regular Botox or is now having some kind of experimental, schlack-based liquid applied underneath her gobs of airbrushed makeup? I'm guessing it's the same shit that they use on Jerry Lewis's hair before he goes live for the yearly Labor Day telethon: Sort of a multi-purpose gel that rejuvinates, adds shine and can take the lead-based paint off of a 1962 VW Beetle.

Does Alli have a spokesperson yet? Did he EAT Deano's lifeless body?

May god have mercy on Madonna's soul for attempting ANOTHER comeback, this time on the back of poor, white Justin Timberlake.
But, look closer and maybe there's a common thread happening here: First it was creating a lesbianic controversey with Britney Spears back in 2003 and now it's on to another former member of The Mickey Mouse Club. She's systematically taking out the careers of Disney kids, sucking them dry of their talent and selling as many albums as possible in the wake. If my Miss Cleo powers are correct, I forsee Madonna doing a duet with Christina Aguilera in 2015, with the career-shit really hitting the fan when Madge reaches out to an 80-year old Keri Russell for a tour sometime in 2025.

This is all assuming that the blood deal she's made with satan doesn't fall through and that she and her other unnaturally youthful friend, Demi Moore, remain mobile.

...And by Satan, I really mean Priscilla Presley

Well, if you're reading this and had an airline ticket with ATA in the last week, I'm guessing you're pretty pissed off right now.

Frankly, I'd be pissed if I had a ticket and ATA was STILL flying: Going from point A-to-point B on ATA is like flying Southwest, but without the option of buying sedatives from your flight attendants. There's very little doubt in my mind that someday soon, scientists will find the missing link... And it will be trying to cram a too-large roller bag into an overhead bin on SWA.

Your best bet at this point for an unused ATA ticket is to head to their headquarters in Indianapolis, strap a string of road flares around your chest and, in a loud, somewhat unstable tone, demand your money back. I find this elicits a much quicker reaction from the company brass than the overdone Better Business Bureau online complaint. Sadly, I'm sure this will all boil down to a class-action lawsuit, where the litigants will sign away their rights to personally sue in exchange for an ATA corkscrew.

Ah, once again, the always bias-blind lady legal hard at work, rightfully putting attorneys everywhere in Bentley coupes. God bless America.

Having really only watched CNN on satellite for the past week, it's come to my attention that the USA is in a financial meltdown. If the son of Gloria Vanderbuilt says it's so, then it must be.

Well DUH, Ben.

Okay, so I was being just a tad fesicious, but the let's recap the seriousness of the situation for those who are more accustomed to reading USA Today than The Wall-Street Journal. The story involves:

* Irresponsible lenders

* Irresponsible signers

* A whole mess of government funding to bail everyone out

If all of this information is true and forclosed people are eventually going to be bailed out (just as the banks have been), then why the hell am I not complaining more about my monthly credit card statement? Why is it that I can't legally sign into a contract with a credit card company, run my debt well past the point of common sense and then simply ask the government to forgive or pay my bill for me?

I can't. That's just plain idiocy. We have a name here in America for derelict people who can't pay their bills: Steve Gutenberg.

Isn't it sad when D-listers start doing ads for International Male?

Folks, It's all there in black & white when you're putting pen-to-paper. If you're making $25k a year and signing for a $400k, jumbo-loan, then something is certainly rotten in Denmark. Just because they can flip a house on TLC in thirty minutes doesn't mean that you know how to lay Pergo and do the same exact thing. Want a depressing figure? Most non-new homes over $200k sit on the open market an average of 15 months. While a lender never discloses this kind of info when trying to close the deal, it's not that tough to access this stuff on the internet and educate yourself a little.

Hell, CNBC is practically the Suze Orman Channel now anyway, so just tune in to an episode and watch her grill the call-ins on their lending stupidity. It's cringe-inducing, uncomfortable and brilliantly entertaining. It's as if a semi-angry lesbian with a bit more fashion sense than Oprah got drunk and mated with Alan Greenspan: Suze was the off-spring. And we're all better for it.

All that financial common sense and she's wearing a Hefty bag...

I guess I don't have a definitive answer for the mess we're in, but it does make for some good one-liners... That is, unless, you're one of the inept I'm talking about who's in over their head. While I can't yet suggest what caliber of bullet to use in the suicide weapon, I can say with some assurance that laughter is always the best medicine in tough situations. Laugh and the world laughs with you.

... Even in the homeless shelter.

Until next time dear readers, keep an eye out for a total Eye Candy posting and, if you're wanting to waste some serious office time, check out my newly updated Google Gallery. Enjoy.


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