Friday, March 27, 2009
A view from a room...
It sounded like a good idea at the time. So many bad ideas often do.
That is, waking up at the ass crack of dawn, long before the most hearty of party-animals have come home, to shlep myself to the St Lucia airport. Not only did I have sleepy eyes to contend with, but a late taxi cab and an hour ahead to my destination from the Ladera Resort. I was just barely going to make it onto the plane, but 'just barely' still seems to count in the game of horseshoes we call modern day air travel.
Frankly, if the St Lucian airport security lines didn't amount to that of quickly frisking a live chicken and accepting a palmed fiver for smuggling out contraband kiwi fruit, I'd still be in that postage stamp of a terminal, wondering if I'd spontaneously bump into Rhianna on her way home to Barbados.
Molly, you in danger girl.
I'm convinced: If Alanis Morisette can write a wildly popular debut album based on her past abusive relationship, it wouldn't shock me if in a year from now Rhianna was thanking Chris Brown at the Grammy podium for beating the crap out of her. Black & Blue is the new black. Tell your friends.
St Lucia was a perfect spot to reflect on the last month of insane traveling, allowing me to collect myself, get a little writing done, catch up on some needed reading and work on my burn (as people of the Irish variety tend not to brown-up too easily). I continued, dutifully, to get into the gym on a daily basis and ate with some assemblage of health in mind, mostly steamed fish and veg. It's amazing how quickly you see a difference in your body when you become a lot more conscious in what you're putting in it. It really doesn't take that long to go from a flat stomach to a six-pack, as long as you're limiting the amount of crap you intake. In addition to free weights, I continued to run at least 3 miles a day: A treadmill was the most ideal form for this activity, as seeing how the locals drove on the way to the resort, I made a mental note that I value my young life.
In the last 30 days, I've visited 5 countries, traveled over 50,000 miles on airlines and have consumed more American Airlines warm-nut-bowls than should be humanly possible. I'm not saying there aren't those out there who have dealt with more (and hat's off to you if you have), but I'm definitely going to enjoy the next few days in San Antonio, relaxing and basically just tuning out the world around me. I might schedule a little yoga, perhaps some time with my trainer to have her find new ways to torture me, but overall I'm going to be continuously test-driving my new set of Definitive Technology home theater speakers and using my two dogs as support pillows. From there, it's off to the ranch in West Texas and then headed to Tokyo for a few days of mindless karaoke. I'm thinking of adding some Tom Jones to my performance repertoire, but am honestly hoping that the Japanese businessmen watching keep from throwing their underwear onto the stage. Only Tom himself can handle that kind of public adulation.
Spent a little time getting a much-needed theatre refresh in Manhattan, seeing Shrek (surprisingly good) and the revival of West Side Story (a complicated love-hate).
I originally wanted to hate Shrek. Sure, it had a top-notch cast of musical theatre vets, but it was one of those new-fangled 'Cartoon-on-Broadway' musicals: The sort of experience that only brings yuppie scum and their spoiled children who babble loudly through the first act and end up leaving for The Olive Garden in Times Square at intermission. When lions begin eating Christians, I hope they start with these folks.
In this version, Donkey's a screaming queen. Literally.
The last thing I had seen at this theatre was The Color Purple and I still hadn't gotten that bland, Oprah-produced taste out of my mouth. Luckily, the audience was well-behaved, totally quiet and the musical itself was charming. Dreamworks movie studios had spent over $25 million on this stage production and it showed: Stunning costumes, towering sets and wonderfully executed effects helped this show chug forward, along with an insane amount of charm displayed by both Chris Sieber (who plays an incredibly fey, show-stealing Lord Farquat) and Sutton Foster (who shows why she's the major go-to triple threat working in modern musical theatre today).
Only a couple of times did I feel I was really watching an amped-up version of a theme park show, but the thought was fleeting. The lyrics are smart, the music hummable and it's one of those shows that appeals to both the creativity of children and the dry wit of an adult: I compare it's appeal to those familiar with the original movie version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's got a little something for everyone.
I wish I could say the same for the strange revival of West Side Story, playing now at The Palace. Uneven would be the word I'd use most for this latest Arthur Laurents-directed show. Coming directly off last-season's directorial success with a brilliant Patti LuPone in Gypsy, Laurents tackles more source material by bringing what could likely be considered the messiah of musicals back to the boards. What was rumored to be the definitive version of this oft-done tuner turned out to be, in my opinion, a jumbled mess of robotic movement, dishonest characterization and actors who are obviously not in-line with what they're doing on-stage. It's almost as if Laurents just let his cast feel around the stage for three hours without giving them any motivation as to WHY any of them are there. Since this production has already been playing in DC for months now (as a pre-Broadway tryout), it may be that the cast is a little bored with their material. It shows.
Matt Cavanaugh as Tony: If you're in the first 10 rows, it's uncomfortably obvious that he's much too old to be playing the part. His voice, while able to hit the written notes, isn't that soaring, effortless tenor we come to expect from this role. Cavanaugh adopts a strange, overly-songbirdish vibratto that puts a much too feminine spin on the songs he sings. I didn't like it at all. For those of you who remember his Broadway (and rather hot, shirtless and six-packed) debut in Urban Cowboy some years back, that was a show much more suited to his abilities. It was all style and very little substance.
Something tells me that Arthur Laurents would rather have him shirtless throughout the show too, but I digress...
Cody Greene as Riff: What the hell are you thinking Laurents? Oh that's right... You're thinking with your 90-year old cock. Who needs the right fit of actors when you can just cast an extremely good looking and well-built crop of dancing-studs instead? Greene, best known as the winner on Bravo's reality flop 'Shut Up and Dance,' underplays nearly every aspect of his character, totally ruining what should be a show-stopping number ('Cool'). I started calling him the human speed bump midway through the first act because his lack of energy brought things to a screeching halt every time he was on stage. His dancing was technically on-point, but otherwise completely antiseptic, feminine and emotionless.
Curtis Holbrook as Action: Wow. Now this is what West Side Story should be all about. Young guys with passion, a real fire in their belly. While he only had one solo number (which was very funny, if not overly-directed), his dancing was a perfect combination of pent up teenage anger and effortless masculine athleticism: The very things that original choreographer Jerome Robbins wanted for the '1940s production. Holbrook gave a very honest performance and for that, as well as a handful of other Broadway roles, he deserves a starring vehicle for his immense talents sometime very soon.
Karen Olivo as Anita: She was more-than-spicy and had the vocal chops to bring dinner to the table, but something seemed a little off about her dancing that night. Overall, Olivo's acting abilities were well-used in this production, bringing some jaw-dropping reality to moments like the rape and how she dealt with the aftermath. Unlike WSS productions in the past, there was no mistaking with this version that both the Jets and Sharks were downright thugs, plain and simple. No cutesy 'Grease' greasers here. These were guys who embodied the hateful crap they spewed and in return, the audience ends up leaving the theatre feeling very little for anyone but Maria and Tony. Well, sort of...
Cavanaugh in his early days: Great basket. Bad voice.
Cavanaugh has his problems as Tony, but his tragic pairing with Argentinian actress Josephina Scaglione is so mismatched, it's somewhat comical. Sure, she's got the soaring soprano the role needs, shaping every note perfectly, but her acting skill leaves quite a lot to be desired. Again, it comes down to the proper direction and it felt as if Laurents inserted long dramatic pauses in place of having his actors do some legwork on REACTING. Any good acting coach will say that acting is reacting: Not just spitting out a cue response to your acting partner, but actually listening, digesting and then speaking.- Much like what we do in reality. A lot of this revival feels mechanical for that very reason. Here's a group of highly trained and skilled triple-threats, but they've got a 90-something Arthur Laurents who's attempting to reinvent the wheel from his wheelchair in the orchestra. It just falls flat. It felt like a community theatre doing David Mamet. Odd pauses everywhere.
Something new: A couple of the songs have been translated into Spanish. No supertitles. Just a strange, sometimes too-literal English-to-Spanish vibe. Laurents says it's to heighten the cultural differences between the Sharks and the Jets, but it felt a little gimmicky to me: Almost as if the producers said to themselves, 'Hey, maybe we can attract a fresh, more cross-cultural audience if we mix this up a bit.' Sadly, this is what a group of rich, white male producers in their '40s think attracts a younger, hip crowd.
A show like West Side Story, whether dated or not, will survive the test of time thanks to it simply being a good musical. It doesn't need bells and whistles. Just keep the original choreography in, cast capable actors and you could stage it as bare as Our Town if you'd like. It would still be successful.
One more thought on WSS: It was evident that Laurents really wanted to get mid-show 'set applause' for the gigantic piece of overpass that emerged from above the stage just before the big fight... So much so that the lightboard operator was the one who started it the night I was seeing the show. If you're going to have your tech people shill, at least plant them on the sides of the theatre. It was really awkward.
Before wrapping up this longish review spat, let me recommend the current national tour of Legally Blonde that's currently schlepping around the country. It's missing some of the innovative set, good mics and some of the original's vocal talent, but it's still charming as hell. A cotton-candy show suitable for today's world: It'll take you away from worries for a few hours, shamelessly entertain and likely interject more gay pop culture reference onto your local geriatric subscriber base than you or they expected. While I wasn't nuts about lead Becky Gulsvig (hope for her understudy who I hear has a bigger voice and better stage presence), she got the job done. LB has a hardworking chorus and some of the best-looking male dancers who just happen to be half-naked through most of the show.
Drat! How easy it must be to be in perfect shape when you're 5'9". What me bitter? *grin*
Comic Relief in the UK just ended and brought French & Saunders lovers a whole new spoof to dote on. Take a look:
With the guilty verdict now cemented for Harlow Cuadra and a sentence likely handed down by the time this edition of 15mm goes online, I have been emailed a few times asking an opinion on everything. I don't claim to know much about Cuadra, his involvement in Cobra Video or his past with Brent Corrigan, but I have worked with him in an escort capacity in the past: Years ago we had been hired together on several occasions and, on a very superficial level, we'd chat back and forth. He seemed like a driven young guy, but one who was too involved with pie-in-the-sky concept to really make anything a reality. He often bragged about what material riches escorting afforded him (if you consider Outback steak dinners, liposuction and a used car 'riches') and where his adult career was headed once he got his start up studio off the ground. To me, he seemed perfectly nice, but like most performers I've met in the adult industry, perfectly stupid and suited best for whatever required the least work in life. People often times confuse nice with good. In this case, the two couldn't have been more different.
What I did find fascinating with the Cuadra trial was the pro-Harlow, rah-rah emotional responses he was getting from anonymous bloggers even when facing insane amounts of piling evidence. See, there's a huge difference between simply milking a story for web traffic, not believing a word of your own crap and truly buying into the various conspiracy theories. More simply put, that's the difference between being a good showman and being the poor schlep who actually buys the P90X system thinking in 90 days he'll have a washboard stomach.
Wait a minute... I BOUGHT THOSE FUCKING P90X DVDs. Nevermind. Scratch that comparison.
I suppose in hindsight it was a little strange knowing that I had been in close contact, over an extended amount of time with a would-be cold-blooded killer. Not that in-person he came across as anyone I couldn't have squashed like a bug, but I suppose things like that tend to change when you're brimming with rage and have a hunter's knife at your disposal.
Harlow's new cell-mate...
What pisses me off about the whole situation is the penchant for so many gay men to let a guy like Harlow slide simply because he's got a pretty face (or, had, that is). The homosexual, reverse good-ol-boy system of giving the lean, muscular, young ones a free pass simply because they're putting themselves on display as a sponge for someone else to drool on. It's bullshit and it happens a lot. In my 6 years in the escort community, I've known first-hand many guys who continue to escort without telling their clients that they're HIV-positive, convicted drug dealers who have also sold to other clients & escorts, as well as any number of health/legal issues that could potentially create problems for the people they're seeing. It's like walking into a firing squad. More importantly, it's irresponsible, perhaps criminal and, to me, makes you a horrible fucking person. Just totally worthless.
It makes no difference if you assume 'everyone is positive' when having sex, as it only takes one sexual experience with someone to contract the disease, whether there's a condom involved or not. Those odds tend to go down to ZERO when the escort-in-question has tested negative, knows it and plans on keeping it that way. Is honesty too much to ask when there are lives involved? I didn't think so.
If your escort is idiotic enough to post up a personal profile for themselves on a barebacking social website, you should already know the drill: Cut him loose and walk away quickly. If he's willing to take his own life in his hands so easily, what makes you think he gives a damn about you...
As I've always said here in the past, all that glitters isn't always golden. Question everything and everyone, especially those you're taking to bed.
Dear God: Can we please move on from talking about AIG? While I wasn't a huge fan of the bailout to begin with, we now have a whole nation of self-titled 'finance experts,' all who are weighing in on what's now happening. Guys like Jim Cramer and Suze Orman do little for the public other than belittle, berate and offer ho-hum advice, leading me to wonder when the American people (and news channels) will stop looking at this crisis as some form of daily entertainment. Your best defense against all of this is to put down the remote and read a good book. And no, not an electronic e-book on a Kindle II. That's just absurd.
I've been getting an inordinate amount of emails asking me if I knew any or all of the latest Rentboy.com nominees/winners for this year's Hookie Award and after looking at the website, it's clear that the scope of the process has changed a bit (or, a lot as the case may be). The only thing I can say is the new name of the award says it all: 'The Hookie.' Now that's some real class...
If only all of the nominees weren't no-name porn stars, Rentboy hangers-on and guys who embody more the 'hookie' aesthetic than the jet-set escort.
I'm getting sleepy and this edition of the 15 is getting a bit long in the tooth. Look for a wrap-up on my St Lucia trip, as well as my time spent at The Daily Show last week in Manhattan. Lots of fun and I now have a newfound respect for news anchor Brian Williams. I also plan on ripping the new Trump Hotel in Chicago a new asshole: What a sad-sack dump. More on that next edition. I've got new pics going up all over the place, so check out the usual spots (and for you lazy-types, I link my sites on the left-side of this blog). Also, I'm constantly updating both TWITTER and my on-the-go photoblog. Go forth and see.
UPDATE 4/1/2009: I added a new TALKBACK widget to the lefthand menu. This is the spot if you've got something on your mind... Just click and it's live, worldwide.
Poor Natasha Richardson: From what I hear, it's as likely that she was beaten with Liam's humongous penis as having taken a fall on the beginner's ski hill. Neeson is famous within Hollywood for having one of the largest schlongs on the block, so when I heard 'blunt force trauma,' my thoughts went immediately to his gianormous man meat whapping her upside the head. Killed by cock. What a way to go...
Until we meet again,