Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The fact that almost Five Hundred Thousand People have watched this on YouTube somehow makes me happy. (thanks Gary for the link)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Twilight Reading
or The Trouble with Swap is Where to Stop

It's difficult to imagine a time when pornography was not readily available at a click and that you actually had to walk into a store and purchase it. And not just buy it but then go home and read it! But those were the good old days. In the dusty land of ephemera, there is nothing so exciting as finding a good gay porn novel from the 60s and 70s. A while back I was at a 'fabulous' garage sale where an older gay man was selling off his collection of porn books. I'd struck gold because having lived through the days of having to read their porn and graduated to videos, these books held little nostalgia for him. He gave them to me for a quarter a piece.
The fascinating thing about these books is that despite their tawdry covers promising 'twilight sex' their stories are usually pretty sweet; mostly having someone coming to terms with their attraction and love for some man.
Granted there's a ton of graphic sex; but they are pretty much your standard "Brokeback Mountain" meets the football team, the army, the rich employer, the movie star, etc...

When ever I see a gay pulp fiction novel I'm reminded of a party I went to several years ago; The host had just gotten a box of these books. His landlord, Sterling, was a gay man in his 80s, who owned a greystone in Lincoln Park; he had taken ill and was in a nursing home. My friend had taken over the responsibility of cleaning up the house for it to be sold. In the basement of the house he found boxes and boxes of pornography dating back to the 40s. The majority of it was ruined in a flood and was just rotting, but he managed to save several of the novels.

At the party David Kodeski and his partner Edward started to read aloud from one of the books. Then someone else began reading, and then another person until there were about 12 people standing in the kitchen shouting gay porn scenes. "Tommy's body melted, turned to scalding, oozing fluidity..." Massaging the cheeks of Don's buttocks..." "They pumped together in contrapuntal madness..." "Fitted together, they became a thing of motion; a whirring mechanism composed of blood, flesh and steel-like muscles..." "I sent my titillating tongue and lips to do his bidding..." Louder and louder until everyone was screaming these lines at the top of their lungs... This was at about 2 in the morning! The fact that the police weren't called was a miracle.

Friday, January 19, 2007

When Johnny Comes Marching Homo

I’m continuing my seemingly never ending task of transferring my LPs to the mp3 format. As I’ve written before it’s been both a torturous and rewarding process; it’s years of accumulation, and a walk down memory lane of my past musical obsessions. About 15 years ago I started collecting Johnny Mathis albums, starting with Johnny Mathis' Greatest Hits. I’ve gone through this obsession before with a number of musical artists: Henry Mancini, Jo Stafford, Jack Jones, Anita Kerr, Rod McKuen, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Montovani, Farrante and Teicher, Peggy Lee. I have nearly everything they recorded. As a dear friend Sally, a former librarian, once told me: God save us from the completists.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to be more methodical about the order I would transfer albums; my method had been to go and pull an album at random. However, I wanted a goal to motivate me to clean off a full shelf. I saw that if I transferred all my Mathis albums I would be able to get rid of 50 albums! So for the last two weeks I’ve been listening to Johnny Mathis almost non-stop. He’s sung everything. From as a teenager singing straight jazz, to his 50s lush hits, and then the 70s and 80s, where he covered every conceivable song possible. If it charted Johnny covered it, sometimes with better results than the original.

Around the same time I started buying his albums I was deejaying at the now defunct Artful Dodger. There was a strange period where lounge music made a short comeback on the club scene. I was working for This American Life and was getting a reputation as someone with a big and eclectic record collection, and the owner called me up and asked me if I’d like to spin records on Friday nights. I could play anything I wanted to play, and I did. Even to the point where I could clear the bar and have the bartender, Mindy, begging me to turn off Bing Crosby’s version of “Hey Jude”. But the owner liked me, and for a while it was fantastic to be able to play my favorite songs on a huge sound system. I did this for almost two years. At times, however the real deejay would be late and my shift would spill over from the after work drinking crowd to the 20-something college crowd. Then things would get ugly. I remember once a drunken, blond girl came up to me and told me to play some 80s music. “Like what?” I asked, “I don’t have any of Ronald Reagan’s albums with me.” “I want to hear “I Will Survive”, she slurred. Luckily, I had Johnny Mathis’ album “Different Kinda Different”. So I played “I Will Survive” but by Johnny. She came running up to me screaming how I sucked because this wasn’t even the real version. The fun of being a deejay sort of died that night.

Click here to hear: I Will Survive.

The amazing thing about Johnny Mathis is that he survived in the entertainment business for 50 years being black, a homosexual and a tenor. I was surprised to hear that in 1982 he officially came out of the gay closet and for his honesty was greeted with death threats. He has since not talked about his sexual orientation. Throughout his career he seemed to never deny who he was, but sort of floated above it, giving out clues to his lifestyle on his album covers.

Johnny in a steam bath sort of pose.

Johnny hanging out with his pot smoking and gaily moustached friends.

Can you imagine Jack Jones or Robert Goulet having a similar photo on a back of their albums?

So kudos to Johnny. One of the best. He's still touring and I think he sounds better than ever. His high vibrato has mellowed; he is still handsome, and one of the few living giants of musical history of the 20th Century.

Addendum: I've a funny story I just remembered concerning a Mathis song. When I was dating Jimmy Doyle, I was driving around with Johnny's album "Killing Me Softly" (see above cover) playing on the cassette deck. The song "Killing Me Softly with Her (His) Song" came on. Jimmy contemptuously sneered and said, "This is awful. How can he sing this song? This is about Roberta Flack seeing Don McLean and being so moved by him that she had to write this song. How can he sing this song when it's obviously he doesn't have an idea what the song means?" I pulled the car over to the curb, looked at him and in a serious tone said, "He's singing about Barbra".

Note: I'm thinking of expanding this blog to include Podcasting. Any advice from anyone; I know nothing about it. Suggestions?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

Everything I learned about life I learned from Mary Hartman. I was just 13 at the time and to say I was sheltered could be called an understatement. My parents never talked to me about love or sex, except for the rare exception of my mother telling me that girls can never be trusted; Or that I didn't need any friends because I had our family. Needless, to say when the show premiered I was ripe for any kind of alternate reality.

I watched the first episode sitting in our basement of our 50s bungalow, in the big orange vinyl chair; the 19 inch b/w television pushed up to the edge of the chair so that I was enveloped by its 635 lines. It was there that I would spend most of my time when I was a teenager; hour after hour. I watched everything, I remember little, (although I logged a lot of it down in my diary, go to my other blog for more info) but I remember Mary Hartman.

Although now I rarely watch broadcast TV; I do know that something is missing. There is no longer anything quiet on anymore. Several years ago I was in the hospital for an appendix and I was on morphine lying in pain in the hospital room trying to find something to watch. Everything was too loud. Thankfully, I finally found the Andy Griffith Show. But before the age of MTV, TV seemed more personal. Mary Hartman used the structure of a soap opera, extreme close-ups, lots of dialogue. And it's memorable theme with the close up of the livingroom window, that was not unlike any window in the houses around me; family photos, bric-a-brac, dimly lit lamp. (Click here to hear Floyd Kramer's version of the theme song.) I'd never watched a soap opera before and so even the format was a new experience for me; As far as I was concerned it was just Mary, her family, her friends and me. I felt like I was the only person in the world watching it.

In the two seasons that the show was on I only missed 1 episode. (It was the one where Mary has sex with Sgt. Foley). Even when our television sets broke I made due with my radio that picked up television sound. I would then stand on my bed and peer through into the neighbor's window; they watched it every night and I would see it literally through their feet. I guess you'd say I was a bit obsessed. I remember at one point going to Stewart's Five and Dime and asking the sales clerk if they had any Mary Hartman coloring books. Somehow in my mind I thought, "If this show is such a big hit there must be coloring books".

It was through Mary Hartman that I first learned about sex, country music,that you could drown in a bowl of chicken soup, flashing, sex changes, and it was the first time I remember seeing a homosexual character who was not a joke. My sister almost ruined my life during that time when she watched a show with me and then told my parents that I shouldn't be watching this because it was so adult. I told my parents that it was just a comedy and pleaded with them that my life would be ruined if I couldn't watch it; I think that they didn't really give a shit what I watched as long as I was quiet and left them alone.

Mary Hartman the first year was a cultural event. As Ted Morgan said in his article, "Honk, Honk, If You Love Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" in The New York Times Magazine: "There are daily synopses in the newspapers. At the Sumner County jail in Tennessee, work schedules were arranged to allow inmates to watch MH2... In New York it pulled ahead of the 11PM News. The point is that Mary Hartman is news!"

After Mary and Tom split up over Mary's affair with Sargent Foley and Loretta said that "The Jews Killed Our Lord on "Dinah"", Louise Lasser decided she wanted to leave the show. I was numb. I wrote a letter begging her not to leave. I just got back a form letter and a 8X10 glossy. I was crushed.

Mary walked away and the show continued as "Forever Fernwood" . But it was never the same. Mary (Louise Lasser) was the key to the show and it stumbled along for another season. As in all troubled shows it started to rely on guest stars, Tab Hunter and Elka Summer for example. The spin off Fernwood Tonight and America Tonight were brilliant in their own way. But the excitement that the original Mary Hartman series generated had cooled quickly.

Since it went off it never had a revival. CBS showed edited versions of the show during a summer one year;Lifetime showed the same edited versions in the late 80s. It's been rumored for years that Sony was going to release them. Until then Mary Hartman is just another one of those distant memories of my basement television years.

Cathy Shumway: You know, isn't it ironic - that if one of us had to get it, it's a miracle it was you.

Mary Hartman: I know, I must have been born under an unlucky star. You know I have filled out entry blanks for every single drawing in the supermarket for the last twelve years, and the only thing I ever won was a coupon for a small little jar of tomato paste. But they were out of tomato paste, and by the time they got more in, my coupon had expired. And now I have venereal disease.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


It's great when you find a fantastic blog/website and you can't wait to try to be the first to send the links to all your friends. (The first one I remember being sent to me several years ago was James Lilek's site and his Gallery Of Regrettable Food; sections which made me laugh until I peed. His site is still one of the best for ephemeria; but his politics made me stop visiting. His blog became just Fox News Republician talking points, and it was making me angry to go there.)

It's even better when you know the person who created the fantastic site you are going to forward. That Site is Dorothy's Diary. This site was created by my pal Dave who mentioned to me several months ago that he had found his mother's teenage diaries and that he was going to create a website posting the diary entries. It gave me the idea to post my own teenage diary as a web blog: One Year Diary Circa 1977.

In L.A. there is a cemetary called Hollywood Forever. The manager of the cemetery bought it several years ago and saved it from becoming a forgotten place for old movie stars final resting places and turned it into a thriving business. (There is a documentary about the cemetary you should check out) One of their ideas is to make graves more interactive; so that people are just not names and dates, but video, writings, photos. Kiosks are placed around the cemetary that you can type in the name of person and then see information about them; It started with doing just the movie stars but are now being done on ordinary people.

I think this website of the diary does the same thing; It's an incredible memorial to his mother's memory.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

IN THE NEWS - Tragic Death of Nikki.

Ever since I read the news that the daughter of Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson committed suicide I haven't been able to get the song "Nikki" out of my head. I'd say it's my favorite Bacharach song; It was the theme to the ABC Movie of the Week. I hadn't known that it was written for his daughter who had Asperger's syndrome. A condition that I had never heard of until a couple months ago when during a cocktail party someone brought up how he'd gone to a book sale and there was a table of books all about Asperger's syndrome. We discussed the symptoms of the disease: Being obsessive, unable to have empathy, unable to look people in the eye. We talked about how that could apply to almost everyone's boss. Sam said, "You'll see, now where ever you go you'll hear about Asperger's syndrome.

My heart goes out to Burt and Angie. Who knew that behind those sparkling smiles and white silk pant suits they were dealing with a child with a mental illness; Sailing on a white yacht, smiling for the camera while they drank their Martini and Rossi Asti Spumonti. Sometime in the 80s I remember Burt on the Tonight Show singing one of his terrible songs he'd written with Carol Bayer Sager. My mother said, "He hasn't written a good song since he broke up with Dickinson." And I believe it's still true.

But "Nikki" the song is a gem and it's even more poignant to know that it was born out of worrying about their sad daughter. RIP Nikki...

Click here to hear Ed Ames sing "Nikki". ... article on Nikki Bacharach

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


There's nothing like a bottle of red wine and a digital camera to bring out the creativity in me. I spent New Year's Eve at Dan's house with the usual group of unusual friends. Dan has a spare room upstairs that has a decidedly forlorn look to it with its iron bed and angled ceiling.

I got the boozed up idea of doing shots of everyone sitting on the bed "looking sad"... Here are some of the better results.

HAPPY NEW YEAR - 2007!!!