Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leviticus

11:24-46
I suppose that anyone who labors in a group must claim religious exemption from working, if they become "unclean". But what about the goof-off who "accidentally" becomes unclean? "Whoops! Oh, boss, look what I did! I touched that dead chameleon. Clumsy, clumsy me. But hey, far be it from me to put my fellow workers at risk. I tink too much of all youse to needlessly endanger you with my presence! See ya' in the mornin'!" And, not to beat a dead horse (Get it? Beat a "dead horse"? Ha-ha!), but i can imagine a mischievous person touching a deceased mouse, then running from pious person to pious person, touching them and saying, "Nah-nah-nah-naaah-nah, you're unclean!". Humor aside, it simply does not seem reasonable to suggest that holy displeasure could be connected with the touching of apparently random animals, dead or undead.
12
These verses are simply atrocious and inexcusable. The verse 2 message is that you are offensive to God when you menstruate! A lot of the Bible thus far has been well-intentioned, with a somewhat redeemable code of behavior, but these verses are frankly noxious. A woman in childbirth is also offensive to God, and she remains "offensive" for weeks after? Verse 5 is the most frighteningly abominable of all, to suggest that a female child doubles the mother's period of uncleanness. I'm a little speechless. A reasonable person would be excused for laying down the Bible for good at this point.
21:7-8,13-15
The Lord seems to be saying in these verses that a person's purity is forever dependent upon what happened to that person in the past; in effect, that people cannot change, or repent of past offenses. This is not inconceivable, but it does contradict later biblical allegations that forgiveness is divine.
26:14-35
These punishments should have been happening for a long time, and should be all around us now. But they aren't. Or they're happening at such at such a slow pace as to escape observance. The Lord does not speak of them as being slow in coming, however. Their absence is compelling evidence that the Bible was in no way divinely inspired.

The Star-Spangled Girl

THEATER 33
-summer 1991
Ken had another play for us, back at the M.P.C. Fellowship Hall. I was leery when Ken told me it was Neil Simon. Mind you, the previous summer's ODD COUPLE had been fantastic. It's just that i was ready for more meaty stuff, particularly with every company (and their Uncle Lou) doing Simon. But i read it. It's the story of two friends self-publishing a protest magazine, and what happens when Sophie, a flag-waving swimmer, moves in upstairs and becomes the object of obsession of Norman, the writer. The other partner, Andy, tries to keep the magazine afloat, and keep Sophie from dismembering Norman. Antipathy between Andy and Sophie escalates when they are forced to hire her, then obsession takes a new, comedic turn. I liked it. Particularly with the cast Ken had in mind. I would play Andy, my old buddy Charlie Leeder would play Norman, with newcomer Linda Rossi as Sophie. She had just graduated with an acting degree, and she made a wonderful impression. I was hooked. Ex-Youth Clubber Becky Ellis was our stage manager. Working with Charlie…i had done so before, but never so intensely. It was wonderful. Humor and dedication and non-stop energy. Linda clicked with us beautifully. I'd never worked on a show that felt so perfect. And that's funny, because the play is regarded as Neil's worst. But what we did was joyous proof that with the right chemistry, conventional wisdom need not apply. Norman is a brilliant nut who washes Sophie's cat, paints her steps, follows her into the Y, and leaves her notes and gourmet food. Sophie's an Arkansas girl engaged to a Marine. Norman's stalking wouldn't be regarded as comedic today, but our chemistry was so great that it didn't matter. Finally, it comes out that Sophie's anger with Andy is so intense because she's attracted to him. Andy doesn't know whether to kill or kiss her. Ken loved working with the three of us. We were so motivated that he just sat back and watched us go (although Linda was sometimes desirous of more active direction). We all socialized outside of rehearsals. Linda was dating a musician who took her for granted. Her scenes with me were as incredible as Charlie's. Early on, we agreed our kissing scenes should be well-practiced. Kissing her felt kind of amazing. I tried to put that out of my mind, but gradually became deeply, profoundly attracted to her. She threw herself into the kissing with an energy that matched mine; it was intense enough that it became a bit of a joke with the others. One night we even drew blood, but she never broke eye contact, and said to do it again. She and i kissed for two months. She pulled me on top of her, night after night…at that point in the script, Charlie is supposed to walk in on us, but one performance he missed the entrance, leaving us in our embrace an extra ten seconds (neither of us chastised Charlie after the show, however). Ken designed a wacky set, with a beanbag chair and suit of armor. The energy with the audience was just incredible, night after night. I did some great "sunburnt" physical humor, and some great phone humor with southern and Chinese accents, keeping creditors at bay. The night after the show closed, Linda came to my house, and she and i kissed. We were no longer Sophie and Andy (see the forthcoming "Linda" link).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Charlie's Angels, season 1

It's a testament to Farrah's cultural impact, that most people don't realize she did only one season. The girls waltz through an unending succession of hairy situations, occasionally bumbling, but hardly ever getting their hair mussed. It gets so ridiculous that one starts daydreaming about everything going wrong, and just for once they don't pull out the Hollywood escape...suddenly a psychopath is shaving Jill's head and lopping off her digits, as that edgy henchman Sabrina was leading on holds her head under water for a few minutes, while dockworkers gang rape Kelly (come to think of it, Tarantino probably watched this show as a kid). Or dockworkers gang rape Bosley, if that last line of thought was misogynistic. But there was also something progressive about it all. The uglier realities of women's place in society were acknowledged, and week in, week out, they took on the worst elements of a man's world, and came out on top.
-pilot ****
Brilliant. Really. Tight, exciting, and enlivened tenfold by the supporting cast. In this episode, Bosley has a partner, Woodville, played by David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H). That local farmboy with a heart of gold? Tommy Lee Jones. And if you rate high on the geek-o-meter, you'll be delighted (or mortified) by the presence of Diana Muldaur (TREK's Dr. Pulaski).
1) Hellride *
An uneven offering, brightened only by Bosley and Jill as a revivalist minister and his daughter. She's as sweet as Texas apple pie, innocent as a lamb, and beats the boys in poker too.
2) The Mexican Connection **
Enlivened by the series' first moment of pure unintentional camp, when Jill whacks a bad guy with an oar, sending him into the water, and the girls toss a lightweight net on him.
3) Night of the Strangler **
Bert! Bert!! Guest star Richard Mulligan was warming up for SOAP the following season. Sadly, he's a little vanilla here, but it's sweet vanilla nonetheless. By this episode, one starts to develop an admiration for costumers Joanne Haas and Ray Phelps. They did impressive breast work. How they showed so much without showing it all, was quite a trick, and probably required an extra take here and there. One of Jill's white blouses is fairly see-through, and the redness of her nipples.......i'm sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, and the campiness gets a ratcheting. In the climax battle, in a fully lit room, Bert is tricked into firing at a mannequin. Plausible, until he proceeds to unload his entire clip into it. Meanwhile, Jill takes out the other baddie with an inflatable toy.
4) Angels in Chains ****
Sublime. I spent much of the episode laughing aloud. The greatest line in Angel history: "I am not a yo-yo!" The Angels go undercover as inmates in a women's prison. Their client? How about Julie, from The Love Boat? The local sheriff? Jeffrey Lebowski (not that Lebowski, the other Lebowski). The leering guard? Why, that's Hector Savage! Look, two future BUCK ROGERS alums! The Angels get strip searched, de-loused, and forced into prostitution. They overcome their captors in a squad car...but instead of taking the guns or car or keys, they run into a swamp, chained together! Why? Um, because the guards are "too heavy". In the swamp, we get our first-ever glimpse of Farrah's naked breast, compliments of the pause feature on your remote. STILL not sold? Then how about inmate Kim Basinger? She goes nipple for nipple with Farrah (it turns out they both have two), and at the end of the show, is hired as Charlie's new secretary. Whew. I'm spent just thinking about it.
5) Target: Angels ****
The Angels seek refuge from an assassin, in Charlie's mansion. Okay, now stop the presses. Up until this point, the show has been pretty much exactly as i expected. Often a show you watch as a child takes on a different reality when viewed as an adult, but that hasn't been the case. Visual excitement, with all the depth of a puddle, right? But something bizarre happens in this episode. We learn that Kelly was a loner orphan who always ends up sabotaging her romances because of abandonment issues. We meet Sabrina's ex-husband (Gropler Zorn, STAR TREK: NEXT GEN), a cop who divorced her because he loved her too much to bear her dangerous lifestyle. WHAT IS ALL THIS? Depth? Stop it, i have no memory of this. STILL not sold? Then how about Kelly's spurned doctor boyfriend Tom Selleck? Alright already?
6) The Killing Kind **
Is there ANYONE who had any doubt that Robert Loggia was coming?
7) To Kill an Angel *
An Angel is finally shot! Kelly takes one in the head. No, not from one of the innumerable baddies shooting at her who are expert at handling a gun. From an autistic boy. This episode starts out regressively, with the gang talking about Kelly's possible marriage, which OF COURSE would mean the end of her career. It doesn't get better, as the action strains the bounds of credibility even more than usual.
8) Lady Killer ***
A lovely episode about a murder investigation at a men's magazine. Shame on me for feeling shortchanged, but an episode in which Jill goes undercover as the next centerfold, then never delivers even a little taste of a photoshoot...is the word "cocktease" entirely out of line? Sabrina's best episode. She becomes emotionally involved with the "Hef" character, and shames him out of dating twenty year-olds (which, if you think about it, was probably the most credibility-straining moment of the entire series).
9) Bullseye **
Ah, the misty old days when women couldn't be in the real army. The Angels go undercover as WACs (who would be assimilated into the real army only two years later, and whether that qualifies as social progress is a fascinating question). This episode clips along, brightened by the presence of Sgt. Gatraer of CHiPs (Robert Pine, in a bad guy role), then thuds into a vomitous denouement, which one can only hope made the actors squirm. It shoots right past regressive, into misogynistic.
10) Consenting Adults ***
Perky Angel goodness enlivened by G.W. Bailey (M*A*S*H), and Laurette Spang (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA)! AGAIN, she's a dirty socialator! And no, i'm not complaining that Jill goes undercover as a prostitute yet doesn't have one single scene with a john. She does, however, have a ridiculously silly skateboard chase. Yes, a skateboard chase. No, not two skateboards...a car chasing her on skateboard. Silly car, she kicks its ass!
11) The Seance *
Middling-grade schlock. The Angels investigate a clairvoyant. Hypnotized people wander around saying "I must kill Pahpschmir, i must kill Pahpschmir". On the upside, Rene Auberjonois (BENSON, DEEP SPACE NINE) makes a lovely villain.
12) Angels on Wheels *
Undercover at the roller derby, the cheese is pretty moldy, including an especially hokey car bomb scene. Dick Sargent (Bewitched) enlivens things, but not nearly enough.
13) Angel Trap **
Farrah and Fernando Lamas very nearly create poignance.
14) The Big Tap Out **
A cutesy little cat-and-mouse episode.
15) Angels on a String **
The lovely and charming Theodore Bikel (THE AFRICAN QUEEN, Worf's father) is wasted on a middling episode.
16) Dirty Business ****
This'ns what we in the bidness call a big mac. It's got everything (except some prime Bosley). It starts out slow, but Jill has her most touching romantic scenes, the climax is as smashing as it gets, there's a porno version of Little Bo Peep, plus a trippy ambience found in no other episode. The only one helmed by Bill Bixby (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE). Thank you, Bill.
17) The Las Vegas Connection **
Well-conceived, well-executed, not much sizzle, and two rarities...actual dramatic monologues.
18) Terror On Ward One **
Curiously, putting Jill in a nurse's outfit results in the least sexy episode of the season, notable only for a singularly dark scene of Jill methodically emasculating a defenseless suspect.
19) Dancing in the Dark ***
Cupid is in the air, as hunky bad guy Dennis Cole meets future wife Jaclyn. Jill goes undercover as a dance instructor, and her verbal acclaim of all things disco is a delight. The ending loses coherence, but Jill's bowling alley takedown of Dennis, with a ball right down the lane, is Angel action nonpareil.
20) I Will Be Remembered **
Not for this episode, you won't.
21) Angels at Sea ****
Wheeeeee! The Angels go on a cruise...never mind that their cover is blown and they receive death threats even before they board. These and other plot points are groaning at the seams, but sometimes you've just gotta bend over and smile, cause it feels so good. We've got a naked Bosley and killer steam! We've got a murderer taking pot shots at them, but they still head off to bed in separate cabins. We've got three simultaneous bomb defusals that put the "max" in climax. And most of all, we have an over-the-top insane baddie by Mr. Frank Gorshin! Wheeeeee! Spinning off Hollywood impersonations like water off a demented duck's back, Frank elevates this one to pop culture nirvana. Let's include this in a Gorshin-a-thon, with his turns in STAR TREK, BUCK ROGERS, and BATMAN's "Ring Around the Riddler".
22) The Blue Angels ****
Starbuck! Faceman! Dirk Benedict!! The producers didn't know Farrah would be leaving, so there's no "exit" plotline. How she catapulted into the pop stratosphere couldn't be more of a non-mystery. She made Jaclyn, one of the most beautiful women in TV history, look like a wet rag. She gave America something we'd never seen. Holy-good-god-almighty-above, say it with reverence...nipples. It was mostly simple physiology. The caprices of evolution gave this young woman from Texas two nipples so pokey they resembled beautiful, oversized erasers. It's possible that she had them iced before her scenes, but it's also possible there was no need. Nearly every episode, they came bursting out of one of her costumes. Week in, week out, she somehow scored the lion's share of the action sequences too. In this one, she takes down a bad guy from eight feet away with an aluminum pie tin. Chew on that, Wonder Woman! Bend over and pucker, Zena! On top of it all, she had such a sweet, accessible, open quality (those nipples might have been obvious and trashy on anyone else). In her final scene, she's down on the floor with Bosley, demonstrating some of the massage moves she'd learned undercover. Sigh. America never had a chance.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

tina

WOMEN 46
After my time with the mentally retarded, i spent one year working with the physically disabled (sorry George, the cripples) at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School in New Jersey, assisting a paraplegic 9th grader, a wonderful chap by the name of Ian. My best buddies were two other special services teachers, Tina and Louise. Tina was a few years older than Louise and i. We shared many lunches and laughs, and the occasional practical joke. I was attracted to them both. Tina was a Maryland belle, and she called me on my attraction to Louise, even offering encouragement. On the final day of school, there were parties and farewells. The last ones to leave were Tina and myself. She, because she still had work to do, and me, because of her. We talked and let our hair down (hers was long and curly), and i told her i'd always been more attracted to her. She seemed taken aback, and then this goofy smile came over her face. Eyes sparkling, she asked whether i wanted to kiss her. We rolled around the office floor. Later, we rolled around her apartment. She had adorable little facial features, was taller than average, and was in nice, non-athletic shape. I loved laughing with her, and the sex was so much fun. She loved being on top! I had wanted that in a lover for so long. One of the most memorable quotes of my life came from her. She was astride me one night and said, "Aren't you ever going to come?" In retrospect, part of her meaning may have been "I'm getting tired", but i laughed and loved it, because penetrations were no longer the stopwatch affairs of my earlier experiences. She said she had orgasms, though i wasn't entirely sure. She never talked much about her sexual past, but it was taken for granted that she'd had her share. She said she had protection taken care of, and that was good enough for me. We were together a few months. Then, for reasons never known to me, she ended it. I think she wanted to cut me loose before i did something foolish like falling in love. Would i have? I don't know.

The Misanthrope

THEATER 32
-summer 1991
Mark Cofta came calling again, this time for a new translation of Moliere, to be performed in Warminster in Bucks County, and at St. Stephen's Alley, a Philadelphia theater. I wasn't a fan of Moliere, because he didn't have much appeal to the common person, but the translation by Neill Bartlett was nasty and good. Mark wanted me to play Clitandre, a hanger-on. Not the meatiest part, but i believed in Mark, so i said okay. The play takes place in Hollywood, where vice and corruption hold sway. A good setting for a show about humanity-hating. A nice guy named Lee played the other hanger-on. Miles Chapman, my buddy from ANDROCLES, played the misanthrope's friend. Hilton Gieske played Oronte, the smug rival. He was good, and had irrepressible eyebrows. The other guys joked about them, but i deflected their wit a bit (in part because i sensed my own brows might be bushy someday). Mark's ex-wife Tammy played the female lead. They got on alright. And a woman named Kit played the put-upon nice girl. She was dating the lead offstage, was a bit of a flower child, and was sunshine and sexy rolled into one. She doted on me, but seemed content romantically. She called me leonine. I called her a year later, when she was single again, and starting to date an old West Chester friend of mine. I had a chance to tell her truthfully that he wasn't the most sincere guy, and that she deserved someone who would treat her as well as i would. I think she wanted me to. But i didn't do it. Partly because i was too nice to torpedo a friend, but partly because i was afraid to let her know how much i was attracted to her. In Warminster, we worked in an auditorium that had basketball rims set at eight feet. We had dunking contests. I wore a silk shirt in the play, and painted my nails with clear polish. We played to small crowds...in fact, it was the first time i ever played to a crowd smaller than the cast. After a week or two, we moved to Philadelphia. St. Stephen's had been a church. It was an incredible place to perform. So beautiful, with funky acoustics. The Philadelphia run was fantastic.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

taryn

WOMEN 81 (supplemental)
Can you relate to putting the romance/sex part of a relationship on the shelf indefinitely, and have that be an act of moving toward your partner, not away?
Yes, that can be a lot to swallow, especially if the idea's not yours, and you were delighted with the romance/sex part. To taryn's credit, it wasn't long before she became excited at the prospect of becoming genuine friends with me. She's never had a deep, true male friendship. That alone seemed reason enough to choose that path (which a part of her agrees with). And okay, she was tempted to wake me up and throw me into the street the night i made this request, and she did write an anti-rob rant on her blog, but...she didn't throw me out, and soon felt bad (a little) about the rant.
I haven't written about us much, having realized that writing about romance is sometimes better with distance. Clarity is easier. A part of that is a function of our society's dysfunction...with my dream lover, there would be no need of holding back any thought any time. I'd noticed with annie, i didn't really write about the nuts and bolts of our relationship until we'd broken up. I held back mostly for her peace of mind. I can call her by her given name now, as she's not around to be bothered by my openness.
My poor mind was splintering in the month taryn and i were lovers. Which isn't her fault...much to her credit, she's displayed a rare level of gentleness and forbearance. That's no small thing, as for much of her life she's reacted to intimacy with strident, knee-jerk reactions.
But being her lover made my head fracture, and it wasn't getting better.
She thought my request revealed a need to be in control, but it was about knowing that we weren't centered and wide open with each other. At times, her life reminds me of the saying "Look ma, I'm dancing as fast as i can". I went to that place with her, because i felt reckless. But the more i got to know the fragile, unique person she is, the harder it became. I'm not cut out to be someone's lover unless i know i have what it takes to cherish them in the way they need to be cherished (and that they have what i need). She has abandonment issues, so severe that she has trouble saying goodbye. No, not the "have a good life" variety, i mean the "see ya soon" variety. She maintained that she was in charge of her own healing, and needed no one else's help. I agreed we must take that responsibility for ourselves, but i also aver that we NEED real life experiences to learn how to trust others, and ourselves. Unless we find the right people, we'll never heal.
We have considerable incompatibilities, and lovely compatibilities too...i don't think i've ever known someone with whom i have such an opposite/alike personality.
Astrology and past lives and the Law of Attraction are a big part of who she is. Although i explore the Law of Attraction, she's way down that rabbit hole. I believe in coincidence.
Makeup was another doozy. She loves high heels, and the made-up life. I told her once to never worry about saying anything that might floor me, as she'll never top her admission that she's considered getting cosmetic surgery someday.
And sometimes her humor goes over my head! She can be so earnest, and then tell me she's joking. I'm used to people not getting my humor, but rarely is the shoe on the other foot. It's possibly because i'm off-balance or dense, or it could be some kind of coping misdirect mechanism in her.
On the happy side, she's gotten to the point where she laughingly loves the low-maintenance aspect of being with me. And it's deeper than that. Perhaps the most touching thing she ever told me was her reaction to my "kiss and no makeup" article, which is essentially a diatribe against a core part of her. It made her re-evaluate that part of her life.
It's very humbling to affect someone like that.
But it sometimes seemed she liked me so much that she was willing to change herself for me. Early on, she told me she was into rough sex, and roleplaying, and drugs to enhance sex, but then seemed to lose interest in those things. I don't reject that as insincere out of hand, but...one should be suspicious of discarding old preferences too quickly. Romance has to be about equality, and she often seemed content to place herself below me in intelligence (a thought that hadn't occurred to me). She said that she's not a starfucker, but a talentfucker.
Was my recklessness magnified by her own "star" power, the fact that she'd been a Rockette for seven years? A little.
I told her i wanted no part of her changing for my sake. Early on, she thought that i did, and started to resent me for it...this wasn't too hard to trace, she did so herself, telling me her last boyfriend had tried to change her in the opposite direction, urging her to wear more makeup and be more surface-conscious.
I'm a fan of growth, but changes have to be for yourself.
One of her more compelling qualities is self-awareness. She's worked hard to become so. Another similarity is that she's extremely energy-aware, in terms of the body. In addition to being a dancer/actor (a featured extra in the upcoming Smurf movie!), she's a pilates master and licensed massage therapist. I've been doing massage most of my life, but never with formal training. She told me, however, that she's learned things about massage through being touched by me.
Her self-awareness doesn't come without a big dose of self-consciousness, though. And she likes secrets...relationship secrets, to protect the other's feelings...and that sort of thing just tears me up. Early on, she started having a jealous/possessive response. Given my contentious relationship with monogamy, and my wounded headspace wanting only the simplest of healing, and the fact that i hadn't stopped being attracted to other women, it was easy to foresee it coming to some hurtful, emotional end.
One way in which i may have failed us, is in how i let the specter of STDs get into my head. She told me she'd led a very active life, in ways that can only be described as high-risk. She talked about STDs she'd had (HPV, chlamydia). She very much looked forward to us both getting tested, so we could have sex without a condom, something she hadn't done in a long time. Though i tried to be unconcerned, i knew that condoms don't stop all STDs. It didn't help that a couple weeks after we met, i got a red spot on my cheek. I researched it, and the only STD it matched was second-phase syphilis...but i'd showed no first-phase signs, and it seemed much too soon for a second-phase symptom. The spot is finally fading, and yes, it played with my mind. That plus her planter's warts. My last relationship had the specters of herpes (hers) and athlete's foot (mine)...such a headfucking crapload of things out there to make one leery of simple human touch.
Alarms were going off in my head early on, when i realized i was thinking about other women while having sex with her. That's not necessarily unhealthy, but not so much so soon. And it's not "me"...i'd never before imagined another woman while having sex.
Taryn didn't perceive the self-defeating aspect of jumping right into sex, when you have abandonment issues. She doesn't see that as setting herself up to get creamed.
And even though my physical attraction was genuine (i adore her physique...touching her is a delight, she is above all a physical warrior), it was also limited. And that's not just the makeup. I don't rule out the possibility of becoming more physically attracted to her in the future, but there wasn't enough pure attraction to scare away the angels of my better judgment.
It's likely, however, that had she pushed all my physical attraction buttons, she and i would still be lovers. I'm too weary to be a saint.
But at a certain point, the physical and spiritual can't be separated...sexual desire for another human is never 100% physical. The second you walk into a room, you reveal a million things about yourself.
Ultimately, the thing that freaked me out most was the possibility of hearing another woman say "You're the best lover i've ever had", and feeling emptiness in return.
So we continue to spend time together...hanging out, watching bill maher, getting indian takeout (garlic naan dipped in coconut soup, mmmmm), reading to each other...trying to just "be".
Despite all my off-balanceness, and her emotional baggage, she's doing a wonderful job manifesting kindness. Just now, as i write this, she sent me a note talking about my "gentle energy magic". Not bad for someone who felt like she'd been "dumped" just a short time ago.