Friday, July 31, 2009

Peter Pan

-summer 1986
The summer before college, i returned to the Pennington Players for another show at the Park. Judi again directed, and our student/mentor relationship continued. She introduced me to "Respect for Acting", by Uta Hagen, which became the teaching i would use most as an actor. I was cast as a lost boy, Nibs. The cast was a good group, with plenty of old and new faces. We had an actual pirate ship in the pit, and had a professional flying system brought in from New York. For a while, Judi had been threatening to make a dancer out of me. Not that i had been hopelessly clumsy, but, well… Most of the lost boys were younger. The dancers were closer to my age, and i was hitting it off with them (including Kathy Guthrie, my little crush from the year before). Early on, one or two male dancers dropped out, and Judi gave me the option of being a dancer instead of Nibs. Understand, my whole history up to this point had been in some ways a process of "How do i get more lines?". The idea of giving up lines, and a named character…anyone who knew me (including myself) would have thought, "No way that happens". But that's what i did, and sensed that Judi was proud. During an early rehearsal, a dancer named Dave suggested we oil up our bodies to make girls notice us more. He seemed the kind of attractive and popular i had never quite been in high school, so i went along with it. But i realized it was silly, and did it only once. Another dancer was ex-Youth Clubber Doug Russell (Beau from MAME), a friend of Judi's. We became friends, and it was a little amazing to become a peer to someone i had looked up to. That summer, he developed a monumental crush on Kathy. I was still a little sweet on her, but he was deeply smitten, so i put aside my crush. I went out with them a couple times, my presence taking the pressure off it being a "date". I was proud of being a dancer. I was slower than many, but i worked at it. We played indians, and they put body makeup on me called Texas Dirt. It clung to everything it touched, but i loved it. Our run had more trouble with rain than any i've ever done, we lost several performances. The wonderful Jim Patton returned, as a pirate. John Kling and Betty Henninger were a pirate and Tiger Lily. Jill Kowalski (goofy, bright, and my age) became my buddy. Pam Jerde and Lydia Brock nicknamed me Robishk and/or Throb. We visited Pam the following spring, when she was sadly preparing to move to Texas. She was so open and sassy and sexy, i would have been happy with any direction our friendship took. One of the coolest guys was Mark Lavinthal, on the tech staff. He never wore shoes, and did a fantastic impression of Jim from "Taxi". I once again had a special child buddy, Ariel Moule, daughter of Jan, who played Peter. The best moment of the show came in rehearsal. At one point the dancers played trees who come alive, and the costumes kept not arriving. We needed to know how we'd be able to move in them, and concern was growing. So one night, i went outside and returned wearing huge branches i had found on the way to rehearsal (the costumer called me a smartass). Dave and i received a note from two girls in the audience one night, saying that they thought we were cute, and could they meet us (see The final night brought a poignant moment. I had a huge crush on Kathy's best friend, a brunette dancer who was so attractive it was almost hard to look at her. I'd never had the nerve to tell her. At the cast party in an old schoolhouse, i was one of the last to leave. I said goodbye to Mark, and he happily told me that she was waiting for him inside. I drove away, and watched the lights go out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography"

-by Wendy McElroy

Who remembers when the Playboys went off the 7-11 shelves?
1986, that's right. Now who remembers what government report led to that, and other anti-pornography measures?
Yes, Reagan's Meese Commission Report, which concluded that there was a connection between pornography and violence against women. This conclusion was reached, because this conclusion was sought. The first hearing heard the testimony of forty-two anti-porn advocates, but only three freedom of speech advocates; the rest were sent home. The conclusion was in direct contradiction to a similar study made under Nixon, a more balanced study which found no link between porn and violence. This is but one of many interesting tidbits to be found.
I loved this book. I have often called myself a feminist, but had limited knowledge of modern feminism, and specifically, of the schism that formed in the 80s between liberal feminists and radical (anti-porn) feminists. I shudder to think that recently i called myself a radical feminist on this very site, not realizing what it meant. This book chronicles that schism, and which side McElroy comes down on is obvious. Her research is meager, but compelling.
In truth, some of my own writings can be interpreted as having a radical feminist agenda, which stops just short of saying that any form of heterosexual intercourse is rape. The depth to which i have been saddened and enraged by the historical subjugation of females is profound...i even advocated mass castration in one of my poems. But i was employing literary license, as a wake-up device. As a handful of women can attest, my fondness for healing heterosexual communion is, well, deep.
McElroy makes the point that the bogus distinction between "porn" and "erotica" is the result of porn being trashed by the far right (and the anti-porn feminists, who somehow wound up in bed together?), but that pornography is healthy for all humans, and doubly so for women, as feminist advances have always come hand in hand with freedom of expression. Whoever controls language controls the debate, and i admit that i myself have used the word "erotica" (but this is because most porn, not giving the loving touch of societal approval, has always been pretty crappy). She details the history of the sexual freedom movement in this country, which started a century before most people think it did. She asserts that anti-porn feminism is a philosophy of victimization, but that porn is empowering to women, who need to reclaim their sexuality, not distance themselves from it. She says that porn is the only way a woman (or man) can "explore" sexuality in total safety, and find a kind of information not available in textbooks. The ultimate question at the heart of the debate, is this: can you defend a position which equates sexual explicitness with human degradation? Some people can, but they're looking ahead while running backwards. These people endorse self-loathing as a philosophy.
In my own experience, i remember being a bit stunned when i came to the big city and realized that there are women who are hardcore devotees of porn (or devotees of hardcore porn, if you will). At first, i was the tiniest bit put off by these women, but that may have just been the literary snob in me. Ultimately, these women are powerful, sexy, and inspiring.
And McElroy's book is fantastic.
P.S. A book which may provide more in-depth analysis is "Pornography: The Other Side", by F.M. Christensen.

Monday, July 27, 2009

a story

Wanna hear a story?
Not the whole story, of course. Would that i could.
It's a tale of love, robbery, betrayal, and a murder threat.
And i'm in it.
Seriously, if i disappear, tell the cops to check my sentbox, and go pick up Cornelius Aurelius. Perhaps i shouldn't even write this story...perhaps in doing so, i'm just drawing that energy closer to myself. But then again, the threat may be a sham...and even if it's real, not many murderers declare their intentions through e-mail.
This tale begins at my last address, on St. Marks Ave. in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I moved there a little over a year ago, and lived there for nine months. I was happy there. I was creatively productive, there was a little kitten who loved me more than anyone in the world, and i liked the people around me. I rented a room in the apartment of Shelly, her daughter Melissa (12), and son Tarlik (3). I played monster with the kids. Melissa shared her poetry with me, and i gave her books to read. I felt as protective of her as i've ever felt of anyone. Tarlik couldn't get enough of me. I got along great with the granddad Willie, who came around occasionally. I liked Shelly too, though that was a bit harder. She had a temper, and the first time i told her that someone had eaten my food, she loudly called me a liar. Still, i knew being a single mother wasn't easy, especially for someone in a new land (she had brought her children here from Guyana the year before). I was a great tenant...i cleaned up after myself, picked up Tarlik from school when no one else could, and loaned Shelly extra money one month. She and i never became close, but i occasionally read her one of my articles i thought she might like.
Midway through my stay, a strange thing happened. One night, i was in the living room with the kids, and Shelly, in the bedroom, asked me if i wanted a child. I didn't think she was joking, but since nothing romantic had ever happened between us, i laughed off her comment. I had always been a bit attracted to her (i saw her naked twice, front and back, and each occasion raised my heartrate), but knew that there were at least thirty-one points of incompatibility between us. Her little question stayed in my mind though, and i thought of inviting her to my room more often, to talk or rub her feet.
That exploration never happened, because not long after, a suitor named Cory began coming around. He didn't seem very loving, particularly with Tarlik, but i greeted him with goodwill. He soon moved in. During that year, Shelly worried that Melissa had started having sex. A little part of me wondered whether the partner was Cory, because i caught a strange energy from their end of the house one night while Shelly was out.
Toward the end of my time there, bad things started happening. My debit card was stolen, and the purchases pointed to Melissa. Accidentally or intentionally, my computer was destroyed, but covered up in a way that only someone computer-savvy could manage (Melissa supposedly wasn't, but Cory was). At one point, it popped into my head that Melissa, being twelve, might try to impress Cory by telling him that Shelly had offered me a baby. At the end, it was clear that he had an agenda against me...on the day i moved out, Shelly had a moment of warmth with me, and told me that Cory didn't want me having their new number (she gave it anyway). She also told me she was having second thoughts about him. As i left, she still owed me my deposit, but i didn't press her for it. I knew her finances were tight, and i thought i'd wait until she got her new tenant in.
For the next three months, she didn't respond to any of my phone messages or e-mails. In the meantime, i discovered that while i had lived there, i had been the victim of credit card identity theft. Four fraudulent cards had been started in my name, with balances of thousands of dollars. I had always known i wasn't getting all my mail there, something Shelly said happened to her too. I realized i couldn't be sure whether the identity thief was in my building, or my apartment.
I finally returned to the building in person last month. In addition to wanting my deposit, i felt a responsibility to warn the rest of the building about the mail theft, and warn whomever might have moved into my room, about the bad things that had happened. I visited a few times, but Shelly was never there. Once, i waited on the stoop for a couple hours, thinking i might catch her coming home. I left a letter in all the other apartments, telling them what was going on, and asking them to have the new tenant call me, if there was one. I spoke to the kids once, who said there was a new tenant (it was wonderful to hug Tarlik again). On two other occasions, Cory was there. He said Shelly wasn't home, and that there was no new tenant. He pushed Tarlik back, and was curt with me.
I didn't want to let it go. I came back and left a note above the outside entrance, saying "Shelly, i forgive and love you". Shelly was christian, so i thought a christian appeal was in order.
Soon after, i received a short e-mail from Shelly, calling me darling and saying that she always loved me. She said she wasn't in New York, but that she would call when she got back.
I couldn't even be sure it was her. It could have been written by Cory...or Melissa trying to cover up things she had done...or even Cory and Shelly making up a story together. I sent a note asking her to call.
Soon after, i got a note from Cory (or someone pretending to be him). He told me that Shelly was in Guyana getting her papers in order, that he had never liked me and didn't know what was going on between Shelly and i, but that he would kill me if i ever came around again. It occurred to me that he was possibly setting me up as the "cause" of all the things in his life that were going wrong.
So that's the story of the first personal murder threat of my life.
At this point, i've done all i can reasonably do to try to protect the new tenant. Two of the other residents of the building are on my side.
I always believed i'd get my deposit back, though my jaded ex-girlfriend thought otherwise...deep down i said to myself, "i can't have been so good to these people, to be treated this way".
That's all i got to say.

(POSTSCRIPT: A month later, Shelly called, after six months of silence [except for one e-mailed avowal of love]. She yelled at me for telling the neighbors my story, threatened to sue me [which is to say the least curious, considering that she owes me money], blamed me for catastrophic heating bills [even though i only ran the heat a few hours each week], and threatened to kill me. It occurred to me later that it may have all been for the benefit of Cory, to demonstrate that i'm no threat to their dysfunctional relationship. But probably not...)

dear amanda 2

Dear Amanda,
Last week, you made one or two comments about the acting you've done in your twenties, and it seemed like you were seeking validation. It seemed like maybe there is a tiny part of you that thinks about paths not taken?
I was paying attention, don't think i wasn't. You are an amazing human, Amanda Michelle Parke-Davis, and have touched more people in your life than you could ever begin to track.
One of the sad things about being an actor is that we rarely appreciate the scope of our impact. Even in a show that's not celebrated on a grand scale or small, the mere act of creation, if there is anyone in the audience at all, sends out ripples into humanity. Even with a show we're not terribly proud of, the human experience is so subjective that there is almost always someone out there who was so touched by the experience, it would blow your mind.
In this society, only the tiniest fraction of actors receive affirmation in a monetary measure. That scant handful receive almost all of it (the adoration, too). This reveals a value system out of whack. I think that ideally, theater should exist on a scale no larger than what allows for any member of the audience to talk directly to the performers, about what happened.
Of course, more and more, we live in a global community, and when an opportunity arises to touch people on a grand scale (say, if the national media suddenly shines the spotlight on a small town over a matter of staggering spiritual importance...just, y'know, speaking hypothetically), the chance to make an artistic statement that touches millions shouldn't be automatically avoided.
Just be wary of the pitfalls. Think globally, act locally, and all that. If any artist seeks adoration or material rewards as justification for art, then their spirit took a wrong turn somewhere.
Along those lines, you have lived a wonderful, giving life so far. I am filled with love and pride at all that you are.
I celebrate Eve, Debalone, Dale, Plow, that little girl who climbed up out of the steps to read to the audience, the "second" in my French duel...
I celebrate you.
(note: Fort Myers Beach, the FL town at the center of national media spotlight over the firing of the town manager because his wife is a porn actress, is where i started my first theater, a theater kept running by friends of mine)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

mother running the projector

I love my mother dearly. Sometimes though, i feel like i'll eternally be living out the last verse of "Teach Your Children". Surprisingly, i didn't discover this facet of our relationship until well into adulthood. There is a deeply intricate combination of factors which accounts for that, of course...any parent/grown child relationship is complex. And don't misunderstand, she's no dummy. She's a literate and cultured spirit, who played an immeasurable part in my own appreciations of those aspects of life. She's well and goodly forward-thinking in some ways. She was the nurturer of my youth, and that part of her passed into me. If you were to meet her, you might come away charmed.
But the aforementioned qualities sometimes only make it more frustrating when i need to take her by the hand over the pockets of her spiritual growth which are stuck somewhere between 1890 and 1950.
Through her, i directly understand the concept of projection more than i have with any other human. I don't think this necessarily means that she projects more than other people, but just that i'm keyed into her mental processes, and that perhaps i bring out that part of her.
For it is onto me that she often projects her hangups.
In her mind, i am an exhibitionist, yet fundamentally i am rather the opposite. An exhibitionist craves attention, which i do not (a quality which makes me atypical, as an actor). I have always been happy just being me, not needing anyone's approval. I'm quite comfortable in the spotlight, but in personal interactions, i usually like to give the spotlight to others. I listen more than i talk.
To be sure, there is a part of me that can be mistaken for as we do in a psycho-sexually repressed society, it's the individuals who rebel against that who come closest to psychological health. If someone runs up to a stranger and goes "THIS IS MY GODDAMNED REPRODUCTIVE ORGAN!!!", can you spot the healthy one? (hint: it ain't the one averting their eyes). So as a catalyst of human progress, my penis is out there more than most (figuratively and literally).
This makes my mother think i'm hung up on nudity (or profanity or sex, or any other taboo subject), when in truth, the hangup is hers. She reveals this whenever she gets upset over my attempts to be and live naturally. I don't want people to take notice of my penis, i cry for a world in which i or anyone can walk around au natural, and no one even takes notice.
She thinks i do things for shock value. Often, i'm just working on my spiritual growth, trying to rid myself of fear or shame...sometimes, i'm doing such a good job, that i have no clue what she's even talking about when she cries, "SHOCK VALUE!". And sometimes, in my role as teacher, i do of course use shock value. But whenever i do, i am usually crying inside, that anyone could even be shocked by the things i do or write.
Does it hurt to be fundamentally misunderstood by someone you love? Sure.
Mom's a writer herself, and it would be interesting to read a piece of hers called "My Exhibitionist Son". As many times as i've tried to clear up her misconceptions of me, she always seems to return to the same ones. Perhaps if she's a better writer than i (or her hangups are more in synch with yours), you might even see things her way.
Ah well, we do what we can.
And i do love her.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

vacation leftovers

Vacations can be amazing.
A slice of heaven.
A parade of perfection, possibly in paradise.
In general, they only have one flaw...CELIBATE HELL!! OH NOOOOOOO!!!
This isn't a problem for everyone, of course, not if you travel with a sex partner or two, or are comfortable going down on a stranger you met four whiskey sours ago, or if you stay in your own hotel room and can avail yourself of the most reliable, efficient sex you'll ever know, if you glean my meaning.
Um no, i didn't mean a prostitute, but at least you're paying attention.
No, on the kind of vacation i'm talking about, when you stay with family or friends...well, i suppose there are those of you who might be comfy with sliding your hand down to your tingly bits while sleeping in the same room (or the same bed) with Uncle Frank. But even if i have my own room, it just seems a little impolite (if not yucky) to make merry with my weasel in cousin Tilly's bed. I fully admit that i may be outing myself as an uptight prig, and that there are hosts out there who would never wish my bishop to be so bereft.
But that's how the chips seem to fall, for me. It gets so you start to dream of your first night (or day) back in your own bed. How many hours (or minutes) can you hold out, once you're safely home in your woom? You might even go crazy for a day or two, to make up for lost time. Wheeeee!
But getting back to my recent vacation, there was one moment of beauty which should not be forgotten. My friend Jim took me to the beach at Siesta Key, Sarasota. The water and sand are just amazingly beautiful. When we got there, the lifeguards put up the yellow warning flag ("swim at your own risk"). There was a storm coming in. You could see it, a couple of miles out. A wall of darkness. Jim and i dove in. You could feel the forces of nature building, and the heightened human energy around you. The wall of darkness began spurting bolts of lightning. A few minutes later the wind started to kick up, and there were cresting waves, a rarity in the Gulf. The red flag went up. At first, i wanted to stand at the water's edge as the storm rolled in, but i chickened out when the blown sand made it hard to see, and the gusts turned chilly. Jim and i joined the throng gathering under the huge snack stand pavilion, those hardy ones who hadn't run for their cars. The storm hit the beach, and the rain was pushed under the pavilion so that everyone gathered at the far side. We all huddled there for fifteen minutes or so. As it started to ease up, a man with a wet guitar started playing "La Bamba". Another stranger knew the authentic lyrics, and joined in.
Afterwards, we played and rode in the waves. The scrapes on my chest from where i was dragged along the bottom, just like the temporary tattoo Aunt Joyce put on me and her sisters, are fading now...


One might glean from recent writings that i'm refashioning myself as a memoirist. It's not so! There have been so many memoir entries of late, because i'm re-editing a book i began some years ago, "Women, Theater, and Other Stuff". And yes, hm, i did go off on a jobs memoir jag before that. I've actually been concerned that i might be losing readers, as some of the memoirs aren't even particularly enthralling to me. Oh, there are gems...and i suppose with my level of self-revelation, the "women" entries carry a non-negligible titillation factor.
And goshdarnit, i think i was also just a little taken with the idea of having one month in which i averaged more than one post a day.
And, well, i did stack a few of 'em in the chute last week while on vacation, so i could make it seem like i was still writing while sipping mai tais and having my fingers nibbled by naked island girls.
So pardon my excess. If you don't like 'em, just ignore 'em and wait for my other work, such as my upcoming expose on the corruption in the annual prawn-taunting festival in Tangiers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

vacation lines

I just returned from a trip to Fort Myers Florida, where i used to live. My wonderful, crazy Aunt Joyce still lives there, and my mother and Aunt Sandy were visiting. The three of them are ridiculous together, they sometimes speak in a silly made-up language, a relic of their childhood. I also visited some of my dearest friends, in a beautiful land i loved. Neither my friends nor my aunts knew i was coming. Had i made a list of the people and places i had wished to re-connect with, my imagination couldn't have improved upon reality. After a few wonderful days with the sisters, i split the rest of my time between Aunt and Unc, my friends Eric and Amanda (and their five year-old son Van), and my buddy Jim in Sarasota. I wanted to give Aunt and Unc a break from company a bit; at that point, they'd had guests for two weeks. But i also wanted them to know how much i cherished them, so finding just the right amount of time to spend with them was a fine line to walk.
On the most unforgettable day, i woke up in Eric and Amanda's guest bed. He was off at work. During breakfast, Amanda's friend Tammy came over. She looked beautiful, actually younger than seven years ago, and seemed to be more whole spiritually. I'd always had a mild attraction to her, though we'd never been close. She oohed and ahhed over my physique, and said that my muscle tone was something she aspired to. I wish i had told her that if she became more physically attractive, the government might have to step in and regulate her. After breakfast, we all went to a nearby pool.
When Amanda and i first met, she was one of the most angry, wounded people you could ever meet. Being who i was, i never had a chance, and fell in love. Once or twice over the years she revealed romantic feelings too, but i always choked away my desires, knowing that any chance i had to be an enduring, loving influence in her life could be so easily destroyed by the emotional hurricanes of romance. By the time she began the first healthy romance of her life, with Eric, i was past my feelings enough to feel nothing but joy for her. The fact that he and i hit it off was an amazing bonus (when a certain sci fi movie came out in 2002, he and i stayed in the theater to watch it three times in a row). Four years ago, i accidentally fell in love with her again. Part of the emotional damage of my past few years has been ridding myself of those feelings. I was looking forward to this trip, as my first chance to be with them with that behind me. I was also looking forward to being with Van, but mindful that in the past i've sometimes been too connective with kids, making one or two wish i were their Mommy/Daddy, instead of the one they had. So i was intent on finding the line whereupon Van might love me just the right (?) amount. Eric has always been so embracing of me, and keeping tension from their little family has never been far from my mind. For all their love, they've had all the tensions that any couple go through, and maybe more.
Back at the pool, i did yoga calisthenics before swimming. The moment took me back to the joyful time i lived with my grandmother, and did a nightly skinny dip in the community pool/jacuzzi. For the two or three hours after Tammy complimented my physique, my heartrate did flutters. I had no overt designs on her, but it was so beautiful to just have those reactions, to feel those gentle surges of adrenaline. When i was by her in the shallow end, she did an underwater upward bow, leaving only her midsection above the water. I kick myself a bit for not playfully blowing on her so-beautiful tummy. It was just wonderful to be alive, aware of the coursing of blood in your veins.
We had a yummy lunch, played some more, and Eric returned. I was trying to maneuver a surprise reunion with another friend, Lucy. I had Amanda arrange a dinner meeting. I would show up instead, and Amanda would join us later. Amanda drove me to her work on the beach, and gave me her car so i could play some more with Eric and Van. Late in the afternoon, i returned to the beach and parked at the Orpheus, the cafe where i once ran a theater. One of the brothers who runs the place, Tony, was there. He was always our champion, fighting for the theater's survival often against his family's strident wishes. He's a gentle, literate man i love very dearly. We hugged, and i set off on foot for the north end of the beach a mile or two away, intent on taking in the sunset from the most undeveloped spot on the island, a place where i had spent many hours of my life teaching myself archery. After the sun set, i was alone at the point. I took off my clothes and stood there, arms outstretched, taking in the last rays of the sun.
I got back to the Orpheus a bit late, but Lucy was still there. My "surprise" was not to be, she had figured it out. We ate, and sat with Tony. A drunken man bloodied himself with a parking lot faceplant. Amanda and Tammy showed up, and the five of us visited Jo and Mark, two dear friends. Mark had had a lucid dream about me traveling, around the very day i had flown in. After that, the five of us ended up at Tony's. He's become very spiritual in recent years, and had started painting, but i wasn't at all prepared for how deeply his work moved me. I was the only one not indulging in marijuana or alcohol. I took my shirt and shoes off, and explored all the energies around me. I wanted to take all my clothes off, but sensed that some of us weren't quite spiritually ready to be unaffected by nakedness. There was music and dance, and talk of the fifth resonance. I had the bemusing reminder that there is often an easy antidote to being attracted to a woman who drinks...just hang around until they get boozy. I climbed on and under things, and prostrated myself on the floor. The energy was so beautiful, Tony said his home attracted all sorts of young people. Lending credence to his words, two young friends appeared. One of them was a psychic mess, having been on a three-week spiritual orgasm. The other was named Faith, and i was immediately swept away by her fulsome beauty. I thought of loving her forever, and creating beautiful babies...i touched her arm, and her reaction was so affirming and alive. But i tried to hold back any display of attraction. Tony had said that he'd not had a lover since the early days of his spiritual awakening five years ago, and that he was eager to find that part of himself again. If he was smitten with her, i didn't want to inject myself there. Also, i didn't want my attraction to unbalance the group vibe. Also, i didn't want to show attraction for another woman in front of Amanda (a vibe i'd felt earlier in my response to Tammy, too). I didn't want to give Amanda the message that i was saving myself, of course (though a teeny, fading part of me was), but it just felt like it could have been disruptful of the peaceful vibe i wished for her and i that trip. It was a confusing line i did my best to walk.
After climbing down from a perch while we all talked on the porch, i again found myself lying on the floor. Tammy rubbed me. Well into the wee hours, we all went our separate ways. Back at Amanda's, she tucked me in with a reading of "Hop On Pop". Sleep took me away...
Another line i walked all week was the line between letting emotions and reactions be what they are without censure or guilt, and shepherding my energy and feelings to best love and support the life around me. This can be a hard line to walk, perhaps the very hardest.
I love you all.
I would say that i'm saving myself for you all too, but that would be unconscionably flirtatious of me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

perpetuum jazzile

A friend, Chris Capp, just sent me a link to a song performed by the group Perpetuum Jazzile:
I started listening, and right away felt an emotional reaction. Within about ten seconds, i started to cry. The crying went on throughout the song, becoming so strong it obscured my vision, and made me worry about getting my keyboard wet. Many minutes later, i'm still getting little aftersurge sobs.
Chris sent some words with the link, about the amazing outpouring of love all over the world in the wake of Michael Jackson's death, and how if there is ever going to be real healing of our fractured, hateful race, music will be an essential part of it. Thank you for that thought, Chris. And thank you for your life, Michael. When it's all said and done, it's possible you did as much to heal the world as any human who ever lived.
It says a lot about my life lately, that i cried so quickly and easily. I've been around so much direct cruelty and carelessness.
If you feel yourself getting sad or angry with someone, remember that no child ever dreamed of growing up to spread unhappiness.
But we're all so frail and stupid and needful, that sometimes all we seem capable of is hurting each other.
Keep loving.
Remember the helpless child inside us all.
Keep loving.

Friday, July 10, 2009


The summer after my college senior year, i did a play called THE STAR-SPANGLED GIRL, regarded as the worst play Neil Simon ever wrote. Our production was incredible, it was wonderful…a testament to having the right people in the right place at the right time. The show starred me as Andy, Charlie Leeder as Norman, and Linda as Sophie, the object of his obsession. Sophie and Andy go from extreme antipathy to extreme attraction. I hadn't known Linda before. She'd recently graduated with an acting degree, and was dating a wild child musician who took her for granted. I spent two months falling in love. The subject of our stage kisses came up in the parking lot one night, and we agreed we should practice. We did so for a few minutes, laughing and kissing very well. But i believed in not getting involved with someone you're doing a show with (not that i had any reason to think that she was attracted to me), so i basically spent two months of sweet, torturous heaven, kissing her every night. The intensity of her kisses, i attributed to her professionalism. In rehearsal, there had even been one erection (unnoticed, or did i make a joke about it?) and a minor mouth injury for her. But she never broke eye contact with me, and said to keep on working the scene. I drove to her darkened house late one night, and sat there watching. Then i remembered that she had inspired stalking behavior in college (she had been regarded as a "white whale"), so i came to my senses and left. The closing night cast party was a sleepover, and i slept near her, with a note on me saying "wake him with a kiss". The morning passed uneventfully, but the next night she came back wanting to know what the note had meant. I told her. She was silent for a long while, and finally said "don't you think you ought to kiss me?" I did, and i did. I remember being happy that she had a tiny touch of bad breath for once. It made her more human, and i didn't care, i was getting to kiss play, no pretend, just her and i. A couple days later, she told me that her boyfriend wanted to patch things up, and she was going to give it a try. Only once in a long lonely while do i wonder what might have happened if i had said "No! The best thing you're going to find is right here. I'm here. You've found me". But i was growing into a person dedicated to never telling another how to live their life, so i gave her my blessing, and trudged on with my wearied spirit.

tattoo too

-spring 1986
The final show of my high school career. Lou and i had done in it the fall, and Mr. Roche offered it to me again, for a drama festival at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope. He asked whether i wanted to take a stab at being Charley, the tattoo artist. Of course i did. But who's going to be the businessman, i asked? Pick someone, he said, and he also had faith that we could direct it ourselves. I chose my Youth Club buddy Ken Hartman. In contrast to Lou's New-Yorky Charley, i made mine a southerner. The festival was fantastic. The playhouse had lots of history. There was a poster of Tim Conway and Tom Poston on the wall. It was a stormy day, and wandering around the grimy backstage areas felt perfect. The building leaked, there were buckets scattered about, one of them even onstage. Thunder rolled, and the metal roof amplified the rain. Our show about a stormy day was was the one show for which this was perfect. Several of our lines got extra laughs, as the storm became a third character. We came in second in festival ranking. Sometime that spring, Mr. Roche and i were chatting, and the subject of Lou came up. In class that year, Mr. Roche had occasionally knocked Lou down a peg when he was attacking me. After suggesting that Lou's problem stemmed from jealousy, he told me something i'll never forget. He said that in all the years he had been with the school, there were two actors whose talent stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The first was a student from many years back, and the second one was me. I was humbled, but ready to hear it, and ready to be worthy of it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

laura's roommate, colleen

WOMEN 25-26
Laura's roommate
Laura was a college actress friend i had a huge crush on, and would visit regularly. I never managed to make a love connection though, and oftentimes just ended up hanging out with her roommate. She was into Elizabethan poetry, was great to talk to…but i only had eyes for Laura. The roommate would hug me when i left, and over time these hugs became measurable in minutes. Just quietly holding each other, with a slow caress here and there…on one of the longer ones, i became peacefully erect. One night, she told me about an ex-boyfriend who was a violent stalker. Around the time i started to realize that maybe she liked me as more than a friend (i wasn't always the swiftest with such things), and that i had been a fool chasing Laura, she had to leave school. Family trouble or something. To this day, i can see her face so clearly…as the years pass, she comes more and more to mind as one person i should never have let get away…
A college actress one or two years older who had transferred in, my freshman year. Very talented, silly, and smart. She waited years for me to make a move. Things finally came to a head during a sleepover party my senior year. We found ourselves together in the dark, and we caressed and kissed and partially disrobed. I held back. I never made a move again, until a year or two after college, when i looked her up. She was seeing someone…serves me right for being an indecisive jerkhead.

the word was grease

-spring 1986
Shortly after BIRDIE auditions, the high school held auditions for GREASE. Even though the rehearsal periods would be overlapping, i knew it was theoretically possible for me to do both. This was what i had dropped out of the bands for, so i would try. And GREASE...well, it was hip, it was fun, it was everything BIRDIE wasn't. I didn't really think about my chances of getting a good part. The director, Mr. Mankowski, had directed my sister a few years earlier. I set my sights on the lead, Danny. The assistant director was Diane Wargo, a grad student from Villanova. She was, well, just incredible. Blonde, bright-eyed, fun, with a figure that short-circuited our poor teenage brains. She said i'd make a great Kenickie, and any attention from her felt like a gift from heaven. At the callbacks, i noticed that not many guys were singing Danny's falsetto. Mr. Mankowski kept asking us to try, but nobody i heard was able to do it with any amount of strength. Falsetto had always come easier to me than chest singing; i didn't even know this was peculiar. Auditions over, i knew i had a shot. And i wanted it, partly because of the bad taste in my mouth from the BIRDIE auditions. I didn't want Kenickie, either. A day or two later, the cast list went up. And next to my name, "Danny". There was none of the jubilant jumping a la the JOSEPH casting. I was still sweet and sincere, but there was an almost predatory layer added. And thus began the most excitingly intense time i'd ever known. I stayed after school for GREASE rehearsal, then ran home for a meal, to get to BIRDIE rehearsal by seven. Almost anything after JOSEPH would have been a letdown, but my rehearsal marathons somehow dodged that fate. Diane danced with me while choreographing, and i got to, you know, hold her and stuff. Mr. Mankowski was great. "Dan the man", we called him. He gave me his own boots for my costume. Cast chemistry was an interesting thing. Never any dominant disharmony, but it wasn't a love-in, either. Our lack of total chemistry was negated by the excitement. Playing Sandy was a junior named Pam. She was the first girl i ever kissed onstage. We got along, but there weren't any sparks. We were tentative about the kissing, so Mr. Man cleared the auditorium to work with us, and we got better. She was a good Sandy. Most days i had one of my parent's cars, to make my crazy schedule easier. There was a group of four or five actors, mostly juniors, who always pleaded with me to pick them up on the way to school. Very often, i did. One of them was a sweet, sweet girl who adored me and was good friends with Pam, which helped warm Pam up to me. There were three others who managed the BIRDIE/GREASE bifecta: Wendy Parker, Courtney Lear, and Jim McLaine. Wendy was Rizzo, and she was pretty damn great, which was funny, because she was the mayor's wife in BIRDIE, a teeny part. Courtney was a Pink Lady, and also had practically no part in BIRDIE. But there was an unspoken connection between the four of us as we did BIRDIE, a sort of "just wait-til-GREASE" energy. Jim played Doody. Our two-show connection was one of the reasons i'd been so happy to expand his singing part in BIRDIE. The line that he and i inexplicably got the biggest kick out of was "Hey Doody, where'd you get the guitar?". It just made us laugh. The junior who had played the romantic lead in ARSENIC played Jan, and very well. Bill Mulvey played the D.J. Kevin Feinberg and Elaine Kalpin played the "good" students, and i loved them. Roger and Sonny were two juniors who were just fun and great. And in the role of Kenickie, my (ahem) bosom chum…Lou Markert! I didn't find out until years later that his dislike of me cemented with the GREASE casting, because he had been the lead the previous year. During rehearsals, Mr. Man was second-guessing his decision to double-cast the actor playing the teen angel, so i asked Jim Shannon to come in. It clicked, and another Youth Clubber was onboard. Junior Liz Abbott played the "bad" girl i dance with, and there were genuine sparks between us. But she was seeing someone, even though i thought he was a bit of a tool, and she didn't seem happy. Sigh. But it was so cool being Danny. Singing a Travolta-esque "Summer Lovin'", sliding across the floor on my knees singing "A-wop-bob-a-lu-bop, a-whop-bam-boom", the T-Birds and i backing up Kenickie on "Greased Lightning"…there was only one weekend separating the performances of GREASE and BIRDIE, and the Danny/Birdie duality was an interesting dynamic. Jim M. had found an incredible leather jacket which i wore in both shows. When the show ended, i might have been able to buy it from the owner, but again i didn't want to live in the past. I wore tight black pants, and the first time Jim M. saw them, he said, "You're not going to wear those, are you?" But the directors liked them. After the show, my brothers joked about the "potato" in my pants, my parents gave me a "Big Bird" doll, and my sister insisted that i had been packing. The auditorium was huge, and the crowds loved us. When i saw the program, i thought my photo was a little ugly. At that point, i believed that i would grow into my looks around age thirty-two. Not that i was lacking in confidence, but i had long wanted to scream to all the girls who were ignoring me, "If you'd just get beyond the facade, and know the real me!" The sweetest moment of all may have come during rehearsals. One day, the leads had to go to the band room to record some vocals. It was the first time we met the pit band, whom i had spent so many years with, most notably Fred Rosen, the sax player who had been my solo counterpart in numerous jazz bands. We had lived two houses apart since 5th grade. After we finished recording, Fred said that he had never been able to understand why i had left. He smiled, and said that he now understood.

"Jason of Star Command!"

In this age of technological wonders (and dvd boxed sets), we can re-live childhood memories with a crystallized clarity never available to the thousands of human generations who have come before. We are the first humans who can literally "step into" our lost youth.
Memories are a curious thing. They exist not as they were, but as our ever-shifting mind perceives them.
Some childhood memories remain pristine and clear, corresponding fully and unchangingly to some photograph or event (whether or not it actually happened that way, is beside the point).
Other memories are lost. Sometimes a discovery or conversation will dislodge one, sending you swirling into a forgotten time and place. One such memory, the Saturday morning show ARK II, was recently jolted into my consciousness, through a dvd preview. It was about a group of scientists who travel a post-apocalyptic world in a white super-RV, bringing learning and law to a barren land (pretty heady stuff for kids, actually). They had an amazing jet pack, the memories of which rang in my head like a clarion bell, once released.
And there is a third group of memories which live in a hazy, nebulous world, remembered only in blurry fragments and scattered images. One such memory is JASON OF STAR COMMAND, a Saturday morning live action show which aired when i was ten and eleven years old. It never ran in syndication, but my memory of it never quite faded. From time to time, i'd recall incomplete visions of evil villains, spaceships and science, and good-hearted heroes. The show was a more action-oriented spin-off of SPACE ACADEMY, which i'd forgotten altogether. Uniforms, ships, and characters came along from the parent show. JASON was part of the flood of sci fi which tumbled forth in the wake of STAR WARS. In season one, it aired in fifteen-minute segments, then moved to a half-hour format for season two. I just finished watching the entire series. It's amazing to experience a piece of your youth through adult eyes. JASON is at once incredibly sophisticated (unprecedented children's TV special effects the result of a similarly unprecedented $100,000 per episode budget), yet also embarrassingly simplistic (dialogue and situations so hackneyed and contrived that it's faintly disconcerting to think that i accepted them, as a child). JASON was an oozing amalgam of influences. From GALACTICA, the starfires bear an eerie resemblance to the Rising Star with the engine exhaust ports of a battlestar. From STAR TREK, the music from the animated series is recycled, and more staggeringly, Commander Canarvin is played by none other than James Doohan. And from STAR WARS, the most preposterous "borrowing" of all: Jason (Craig Littler, later the Gorton's fisherman), is the most mirror-perfect copy of Han Solo that could ever be. Having him be a smuggler or mercenary was too unsavory, so Jason is a "soldier of fortune". But he's a tall brunette with feathered hair, a devil-may-care attitude, and most comedically, he wears a costume that simply could not be more evocative of Solo's. It's more funny, because as a child i DID NOT pick up on the so-obvious rip-off, less than a year after STAR WARS was in theaters. Aren't we kids trusting?
The casting of Doohan staggers me, because in my memory, i had no clue it was him. Without Scotty's accent, he was simply Commander Canarvin. He left after season one, to film STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. He did an okay job, but his season two replacement, John Russell, had a more resonant character. In general, season two was superior. The longer format allowed for plotlines that were just a bit deeper than a puddle. There were even one or two moments of depth, like when Commander Stone talks to a child about racism. But sadly, i almost can't recommend the show to a's just too simplistic and unrealistic. In one episode, Jason gets imprisoned by Dragos two or three times, and EACH TIME Dragos neglects to search him. I dunno, Dragos, you think you might wanna take away that laser-shooting robot before you lock the man up? Nope, not ol' Dragos. The spaceship shots were lovely, but the continuity would trouble a two year-old...they could never keep it straight when the starfires did or didn't have their minicat escape pods. And one of the stunts they were most proud of was Jason heroically crashing through a door. But please tell me how any human shatters a metal door into splinters?? Is it even advisable to teach children that such a feat is possible?
In terms of human motivation, it's also too simplistic. The division of people into "good" and "bad", is a crippling, pernicious, false hypothesis, one that is at the core of human suffering.
One difference between Jason and Han was that Jason didn't carry a blaster. Once in a while, they used a bizarre "laser rod", but because it was Saturday morning, death and instruments of death were downplayed. A fine idea, but perhaps not taken far enough...they're still using deadly force, but without showing the consequences.
The two other most memorable characters were Professor Parsafoot (Charles Dell), the nebbishy sidekick with eyebrows that had a life of their own, and Dragos (Sid Haig), the evil "master of the cosmos". He wore a bright red and black costume, was bald, and had a gold helmet with a red eye crystal which shot laser beams. He may hold the Hollywood record for the most maniacal laughs per screen minute ever. I don't know how he had time to rule a rowboat, laughing as he did after every utterance.
Jason's mini-computer sidekick was Wiki. Know those windup toys that have plastic feet which "walk" a tiny toy forward? That's what Wiki had! I swear! A state-of-the-art futuristic robot with the propulsion system of a seventy-five cent 1980 toy! And why did he even need feet, when he could fly!?
The stop-animation creatures were pretty awesome, but many of the villains and monsters are just men in party store costumes. Pretty comical, though effective enough for a kid. Dragos' henchmen were shortish wookiee-like creatures covered in seaweed, and it turns out they actually weren't shortish. Littler and Haig were both around 6'4", and to make Dragos more imposing, they gave him six-inch lifts.
Jason was occasionally more macho than bright. It's also interesting to key in on adult understandings of body language. In particular, you can tell that Jason (or Craig?) was more sexually attracted to his exotically statuesque season two leading lady, Tamara Dobson, than the adorable Susan O'Hanlon from season one.
Sadly, i offer no "best episodes" list. I'd recommend the show to adult lovers of sci fi, especially those with an eye for history and unintended humor. I'd like to hope that even as that innocent, eager ten-year old, i had some sense of the unrealism of the show (i'm still innocent, of course...we all are). But either way, i send my love and gratitude to all the people who brought this show to life.
You did good.

chris, linus

WOMEN 23-24
The first full-blooded Asian girl i ever dated or kissed, and Asian women just kill me. She was very Americanized, and a born-again Christian. Our college romance consisted mostly of long nights of kissing her all over (from every pore, she just tasted wonderful), and long days and nights of her trying to save my contentedly doomed soul. The Christian thing kept us from any deep compatibility. We never had sex proper, but i think i was still immature enough spiritually that, had she wanted to, i might have. We gave up on each other after a month or so. Being with her was one of the best times of my college years. I had a fairly sharp mind, and from time to time had always enjoyed a little Christian baiting. Something about our combination of sex and debate was just intoxicating.
The cast of Charlie Brown
I played Linus in a summer production. Didn't date anyone, but…Snoopy, a fourteen year-old girl, had a monumental crush on me. Plus Lucy made a pass at me, as did Charlie Brown (backstage, during a show). Thank god for Schroeder…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

we love you, conrad

-spring 1986
I was all set for an incredible, glorious Youth Club play my senior year. The first sign of trouble was when it was announced that Valda wouldn't be directing. Taking her place was an unknown named Sue Janzer. When the show was announced, disappointment mounted. BYE BYE BIRDIE was one of the dusty musicals from which JOSEPH had been such a welcome break. Judi wouldn't be returning to choreograph, either. Determined to make this turkey as great as we could, i set my sights on the role of Albert, the well-meaning songwriter/agent of "Elvis" rock star Conrad Birdie. I'd never had a romantic lead. Cathy O'Brien asked me to prepare with her. We spent hours working on Albert and Rosie. She'd never had a lead, but our audition felt good. Don, last year's Elvis-Pharoah, had dropped out, leaving no obvious candidate for Birdie (my nemesis, Dean Mix, had also finally left). When Sue asked me to sing a Birdie song, Cathy whispered, "Blow the song. Blow it!" I was tempted...but was too much of a trooper. I growled out an Elvis impersonation, to much clapping. As i sat, Cathy called me a dummy. I held out hope, but when the cast list went up, there was my name next to Birdie. Agh! In retrospect, if i'd tanked the Birdie song, perhaps i wouldn't have even been cast as Albert. Albert was senior Jim Shannon, a better technical singer than i. We sang together in the school choirs that year, and got along. I don't know if he knew how much i had wanted his part. Not many did. Cathy and Ken, and my parents (my Dad returned as an assistant director). They tried to convince me that Birdie was the better part, but i wasn't listening. I suppose Sue knew, too. In retrospect, i wasn't as understanding of her as i could have been. She was just making choices i likely would have too, but i never went out of my way to make her feel welcome (sorry Sue, you were a fine director). And surprise, Cathy got Rosie! I sometimes wonder whether our relationship might have taken a romantic turn if we'd been cast together. The fact that she was a lifelong loyal Youth Club senior may have factored into her casting; i found out later that one of the pastors had lobbied on her behalf. I wasn't proud of that. Anyway, i did end up having a good deal of fun being Birdie. A petulant, oversexed rock star with lots of one-liners, and songs that got the show jumping…and i consoled myself that i was the title character two years running, wondering when that had happened before, if ever. My old buddy Ken finally landed a good part (playing a hairy Ishmaelite wasn't the high point of his life, he understatedly revealed in later years). He was Mr. Macafee, the grumpy father, and he did great. Heidi Stohler played Mrs. Macafee, and Kim was played by Katie Atkinson. She and Jim Shannon had a little "America's Sweethearts" thing going. Little brother Randolph was Dave Paine, mugging his way through another role. Kim's boyfriend Hugo was junior Jim McLaine, a great guy. Dustin Coleman, a senior i'd been bemused by for years, played the Mayor. Finally, Albert's stereotypically-Jewish mother was wonderfully played by junior Erica Rhodes. I branched out that year into unofficial assistant musical directorship. Noticing that Kim's "One Boy" number dragged a bit, i borrowed from the movie and rearranged the song into a duet with Hugo. Much better. I also did the voice of Ed Sullivan, and was almost a teenybopper girl in the "Telephone Hour" number. I had a strong falsetto, but couldn’t quite sell the idea to Sue (in retrospect, maybe i was overcompensating a bit, out of frustration with not being Albert...what, i was going to take the one solo line some poor freshman had?...or maybe i didn't even want a line, i just wanted to be onstage every possible second). Longtime buddy Dave Jorgensen had a great moment as the last Elk to dive under the table. And dubiously famous was the quartet number "Talk to Me", which Albert sang with Ned Sanderson, Chuck Bunting, and Rusty Brink. My Dad's background was in barbershop, but he was never able to get them to produce, uh…music. Chuck, a sophomore, had great presence in the little role of the bartender. One of the great all-time missed entrances occurred when junior Becky Ellis was supposed to lead a group of concerned parents onstage. One night they left Jim and Ken to babble on for thirty seconds or so, producing classic ad libs that bring howls of laughter to this day. And one of the great missed notes in musical theater history was given to us by Ken. Heidi, Katie, and Dave are singing away on pitch, and Ken puts out his solo line "Just you wait and seeeee…" Somewhere, a dog is still twitching. The funniest moment i ever saw on a Youth Club stage was when Mrs. Albertson is listening to me go on about how i'm tense, and need a little female action. Erica shows some leg, and asks in her yenta voice "Have you ever considered a more mature woman, Conrad?" I look at her and say, "Man, I hope I never get that tense". Wonderful. I had great costumes, a leopard-skin robe i wear to this day, an all-gold suit, and my first experience in drag. The best moment was in rehearsal. Katie's little sister Bridget was six. Hugo was out one night, and we were doing the scene in which i grab Kim for a kiss, saying "Okay babe, brace yourself!" Hugo runs out of the crowd and belts me, saying "Brace yourself, Conrad Birdie!" I took Bridget aside and asked if she could do Hugo's line, then punch me out. She nodded. The moment came, she stepped right up, said the line, and sent me sprawling. I can't even tell you how long that room kept laughing. The show went over fine, but nothing special. Before opening night, the cast listened to a recording of Jim Prosser singing "One Shining Moment", which became a yearly tradition. After closing night, we had the cast party at the church. No shades-of-Sodom sleepover like the year before. But i didn't mind, and wasn't shedding any tears over the end of an era, already immersed as i was in my next play. At the talent show a couple weeks later, my final Youth Club, i sang Styx's "Babe", dedicating it to the younger classes. Pretty sappy, but there were many tears. That night, as i had done for him the year before, Dave passed on the Teddy Bear Award to Erica, with an actual teddy bear. Farewell, Youth Club. I loved you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

cindy, unproud, kathy

WOMEN 20-22
An actress in a summer production of THE ODD COUPLE. Great talent, fantastic laugh, smart, a good person. Probably more than good. One night we made out on my living room floor. It never went beyond that, and i couldn't figure out why.
The thing i am least proud of in my life
My junior year, there was a freshman girl who lived down the hall. She was a little spiritually lost, and doing the party life. We chatted occasionally, but i wasn't intellectually attracted. One night she came home drunk, wandering around, and i invited her in. I was totally sober…and suddenly we were in my bed making out. After five minutes or so, she left. If she hadn't…well, i wouldn't have let it go much beyond kissing, but that's only partial consolation.
A beautiful, loving, peace child i met my junior year, with soft features, a sweet voice, soft, straight blonde hair, and a smile always playing in her blue eyes. Sort of a tomboy, too. We met on the university grounds, maybe while she was with friends, making music. We talked and walked. I visited her apartment a couple afternoons later, a sunshiny place, and that day she gave me a present i will always cherish. I was lying on her bed, and she put on a piece of music and told me to listen…how many songs can you name, of which you remember exactly where you were the first time you heard it? I listened to "Alice's Restaurant", and was just slack-jawed blown away. She loved Joni too, and by purest coincidence, i sit here today listening to Joni, in the flowering of a seed planted lo those years ago. Spending time with Kathy was amazing because i had long identified with flower children, and now i had one to laugh with. She kept things easygoing, and platonically childlike for a week or two. Once, oral sex came up in conversation and i told her i'd never experienced it. Some nights later, we were at my place, laughing and chatting. She told me to lie back and close my eyes. I did so. Kneeling by the bed, she slowly kissed all over my stomach. It felt like the wires in my brain were being undone. My pants were opened. She lifted my penis straight up and gently blew on it. It was startling! And then slowly an amazing wetness enveloped my head. She held me like that for a minute or so, my mind just…i was incapable of any volitional thought, the last wires connecting my brain to reality were gone, maybe forever. There couldn't be more, could there? Then she took me in further, and…[SENTENCE UNTRANSLATABLE]. Her head went up and down and... [UNTRANSLATABLE] …and when i finally exploded she held me in her mouth…after a couple minutes of smiling at my catatonic state, i think she kissed me, said a loving goodnight, and left. We became lovers. The next time we were together, i eagerly jumped into returning the oral favor. I can't have had much technique, but i loved it. I asked about protection, and she said that she'd had problems, cysts maybe, and that conception was nearly impossible for her, so we didn't use anything. She had certainly had lovers before me, but i was too swept up to protest. We'd only been together a month or so when she got news of an illness in the family, which affected her financial situation. She had to go home. We promised we'd stay in touch, a promise we were lax in keeping…i don't know, maybe we both sensed that the potential for me to fall in love was greater than hers. Maybe. We never really talked about it. A few years later, i heard from a friend that she'd had terrible problems, mental breakdowns and chemical imbalances that had rendered her almost unable to speak. I got in touch with her, and she was functioning well enough to go out for a lemonade, but her speech was halting, like she was in a mist. Her hair had been cut very short. We drank, talked, and i took her home. If we'd had more time together when we met, who knows whether i'd have tried harder to be part of her life again. But we didn't, and i drove off into my life...

Monday, July 6, 2009


-fall 1985
Each fall the high school sent a one-act play to a theater festival at West Chester University. Mr. Roach asked me whether i'd be interested (one of the sillier questions i'd ever heard). The play was TATTOO, a two-man show about a businessman who ducks out of a storm into a tattoo parlor. And my playing partner…Lou Markert! Our antipathy was still only moderate at this point. We were an understandable pairing, for we had given perhaps the two standout performances of the fall play. Lou was the eccentric tattoo artist, and i played Joseph Clement. I enjoyed working with him, we were good together. His character had grandiose tattoo visions, culminating in "View of Toledo" across my back. My character almost takes a lesser plunge, but bolts as soon as the rain lets up. The show went over very well. We were nominated for an award or two, including best actor for Lou. There was another one-act traveling with us, with a cast of nine or ten juniors. Afterwards, i fell asleep on the bus, and some of my fellow actors made me up like a girl. Lou took malicious delight. I felt a little betrayed, but refused to give anyone the satisfaction of a hurt response.

Friday, July 3, 2009

greatest female beauty in film history

Okay, i might lose a few of you on this one. Perhaps the prudes, militant feminists, and non-appreciators of the female form ought be excused. Although this post may reveal me as shallow and stunted, i prefer to think of myself as a product of social forces, with a healthy libido. I'm more than that, i hope, but have no interest in glossing over anything, to make me appear more admirable.
The truth is that i like to look at boobies. The rest of the female form, too. I like it a lot. In part because i'm hard-wired that way. I'm also aware that i'm a bit more interested in naked women than nature alone made me, and that's because nakedness is hidden and forbidden here, so the power of nudity is MUCH greater than it should be. Were it not so, huge industries would be out of business, and we could concentrate on genuine problems, as opposed to a singer's mammary gland appearing at a ballgame.
Hollywood, of course, knows all this very well.
On the show WINGS, Brian had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the precise moments when famous actresses appeared nude onscreen. He could tell you how many minutes and seconds into the film ARIA, Bridget Fonda shared with us her all. It was funny. As with anything funny, it's only funny if there is truth underneath. Bridget herself once said that she wasn't going to do nudity anymore, because when you do nudity, that's all that people remember. I'm sympathetic, Bridg, i am. But until our society realizes that the naked body is no cause for shock or embarrassment, and anyone may walk down the street naked and not face prosecution (or even a second glance), i'll probably perk up a little more than i should whenever i do see nudity. I might even watch a bad movie over a better one just because Halle Berry or Judi Dench is scheduled to take her kit off.
The following list is not all about nudity, though. It's about the appreciation of feminine beauty, and while many of the entries can be reduced to "holy shit, my eyes just fell out...where's the rewind, where's the REWIND?", several entries involve no nudity at all. For instance, the original TERMINATOR gave us Linda Hamilton's beautiful bubbies, but ridiculously more beautiful is the non-nude athletic body she trotted out in the sequel. Thank you, Linda.
There are brillant movies on this list, and absolute crap. We like what we like.
1) Arthur Jarrett’s executioners, THE MEANING OF LIFE
2) Demi Moore, G.I. JANE
3) Valerie Kaprisky, LA FEMME PUBLIQUE
5) Greta Scacchi & daughter, THE COCA-COLA KID
6) Jane March, THE LOVER
7) Maureen O’Sullivan, TARZAN AND HIS MATE
8) Caroline Ducey, ROMANCE
9) Carrie Fisher, RETURN OF THE JEDI
12) Valentina Vargas, THE NAME OF THE ROSE
13) Selma Hayek & Karine Plantadit-Bageot, FRIDA
15) Jane Fonda, COMING HOME
17) Emanuelle Beart, LA BELLE NOISEUSE
18) Thelma Todd, MONKEY BUSINESS
20) Pascal Bussieres & Rachel Crawford, WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING
22) Heather Graham, BOOGIE NIGHTS
25) Kay Lenz, BREEZY
*for unexpurgated list, write the author