Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“After Woodstock” by Elliot Tiber— A Personal Look at Love

after woodstock

Tiber, Elliot.  “After Woodstock”, Square One Publishers, 2014.

A Personal View of Love

Amos Lassen

Some of you will remember Elliot Tiber as the author of “Taking Woodstock”. Now we have another volume of his memoir with “After Woodstock” which according to the author was when he had the best and significant experiences. In this book, Tiber tells us about a series of “madcap and often heartbreaking adventures” that happened as he went through the entertainment industry. Tiber is lucky to have a lot of nerve and that really helped him find his way. He used that “chutzpah”, his talent and just plain luck as a way to work in the industry.

Another section of the book is long relationship with Andre Ernotte, a Belgian playwright and director who is his lover and partner. Ernotte helped Tiber find his potential and he then discover ways by which hr copes with his dysfunctional mother and her demands.

Tiber also learned to love. His relationship with Ernotte was tested during the AIDS epidemic and his own professional and personal disappointments. The closeness that he shared with his partner was threatened. Tiber was propelled forward by search for love and meaning in his life and reading this can help us do the same.

 

“I’M A PORN STAR”— Famous on the Net

i'm a pornstat

“I’m a Porn Star”

Famous on the Net

Amos Lassen

There are people in my neighborhood and in yours who are famous but if we do not visit Internet porn sites we would not know it. Today there are about 370 million pornographic websites on the Internet. Porn is a thirteen billion dollar business. There is a good chance that people you know are involved in it to some degree. (It would be interesting to heart what the original Puritans would have to say about this.

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This film is about guys who are porn stars and the term “porn stars” is an interesting one. By this I mean that there are people who work all their lives to be stars and it doesn’t happen. Yet someone who has sex on camera just one time is called a porn star. The four stars we meet here are Brent Everett, Colby Jansen, Rocco Reed and Johnny Rapid. They speak openly and honestly about their experiences in porn and how it feels to objects of lust for so many men. That must be the ultimate ego trip.
First we get a brief history of porn from actor-director-producer-author Charlie David. We get to see fascinating silent footage of some of the earliest homoerotic action staged on film, as well as the “men’s physique” magazines and reels of the 1940s and ’50s that provided “spank-bank material under the guise of appreciating “male athleticism”.” We see “the arthouse-appreciated flicks of the ’70s, the home video boom of the 1980s, the AIDS crisis and it’s effect on porn, the higher budgets of the ’90s and the keywords, special interests and star-focused sites of the internet age” All of this comes before the opening credits.

Colby Jansen is what is known as “semi-straight” (whatever that means). A former Marine and defense contractor, Jensen is working on his Masters of Business Administration and what he makes from porn pays his college tuition. He is marred to Gia Darling, a transsexual porn star.

Johnny Rapid is known as a “twink” and a power bottom. He has in the last year become an important stat and it is said that he is as cute as a “button”. (Now this is a term that I have never understood—I have seen thousands of buttons in my life and not once considered them to be cute).

Rocco Reed is a porn fence straddler acting in both gay and straight porn. He can tell a lot about these two worlds. When he is not on screen, he is a personal trainer who hopes to open his own gym when he retires from porn.

Lastly there is Brent Everett who has a great deal written about him and lately has made the transition from porn to gay-themed film (in which he keeps his clothes on).

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The four guys share so much with us—their thoughts, their experiences, their hopes and what they like sexually. We learn about the cost of fame, how they get involved in porn and they tells us about the politics of the industry and what they like to do the best. They have worked with famous stars and have stories; how they stay fir, muscular and handsome, how they maintain erections for long periods. We learn what they get paid and how they have to behave to remain in good stead with government and they tell us how being a porn star has affected their lives and off-screen relationships.

This is a fun film that is fascinatingly interesting. We go behind the scenes (or behind the behinds) and see so much more than the average porn viewer.

WARNING: This documentary is meant for adults and contains scenes of graphic sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised.

“Catastrophe: Oy Vey, My Child Is Gay (and an Addict)” by Anne Lapedus Brest— The Discovery

catastrophe

Brest, Anne Lapedus. “Catastrophe: Oy Vey, My Child Is Gay (and an Addict)”, Jacana Media, 2014.

The Discovery

Amos Lassen

Here is the story of a Jewish mother who learns that her daughter, Angela, who she thought was well-grounded, talented and well-educated is not only gay but also a down-and-out drug addict, hopelessly hooked on highly addictive Cat, a synthetic amphetamine containing the substance methcathinone.  The family was close enjoying Shabbat meals together, shopping together, etc. but this news threw them into a dark world that they were to learn was full of lies and deceit and desperation. They discovered forged checks and visits to pawn shops and felt terror and shame. There were also the finances to be considered as well as the degradation that was to come and there was also the challenge of unconditional love.

While this book deal with South Africa where one in every people is addicted to something, it could have been set anywhere—geography really has to do with it. This is a call out to parents to learn about the signs of addiction and it gives practical help and insights to the loved ones of addicts to help navigate their way through it.

Overriding everything else in this book is a mother’s love for her child. This is an eye-opening account of how a South African Jewish mother faces the ordeal of helping her much-loved daughter, Angela, through years of drug addiction. It is written candidly and honestly. We read of the heartache and pain that a mother feels as she watches her daughter fall to drug addiction. The topic is sensitive yet there are no graphic details or explicit descriptions. We see how drugs have an effect on both the user and the family of the user.

But all is not dark here. There is humor when we read about the Irish-Jewish family background and also family life in Johannesburg. I believe that the most compelling thing we read here is the overwhelming will, support, belief and love that the mother has for her beautiful daughter—they share an unshakeable solidarity.

I have read so many books and heard so many stories about gay men and drug addition that I thought I was numb to it and then I read this and I wept with the family. That probably is because it is written as if I were part of the family and the conversation. Even though I already knew how important a family is to its members, we sometimes forget that we should be an integral part of each other’s lives and as we get older we realize that even more.

“God’s Nobodies: Misguided Faith and Murder in the Life of One American Family” by Mark Obbie— Tragedy to Tragedy

God's Nobodies

Obbie, Mark. “God’s Nobodies: Misguided Faith and Murder in the Life of One American Family” ADS, 2013.

Tragedy to Tragedy

Amos Lassen

Tim Ginocchetti’s father died a hero’s death fighting a fire and four years later Tim was in prison for having killed his mother, Pam. This is the story of a gay teen who was bullied….by his mother. He killed her in a momentary but irreversible explosion of rage. The author, Mark Obbie, shows us how a meek young man became a murderer, a young man whose only refuge was a childlike fantasy world of his own imagination. His family blindly was obedient to their minister who turned Pam Ginocchetti against her son, and then by turning the rest of Tim’s family against his loving grandmother, the one person brave enough to take a stand for forgiveness and truth after Pam’s death. This is a story that teaches “profound lessons about tolerance and the human spirit’s yearning for independence.”

Brother Frank Giuliano was the minister and his style was uncompromising and intimidating. Because of him families broke apart and romantic relationships  were destroyed. He claimed to have “visions” and “direct knowledge of God’s will”.

It is true that Brother Frank was considered the congregation’s “direct connect to God” and all of the members of his congregation who had life decisions went through Brother Frank. Many were so brainwashed that they believed whatever he said and houses, careers, schooling and even the fate of genuine relationships went through him for approval.

 Tim Ginocchetti was shunned because he was gay and for having a voice that was too high. It might seem hard to believe this in this day and age but their mothers who disown their children because of sexuality.  We have heard many stories about abuse in the Catholic Church but here we have a small, independent Pentecostal Church, led by the cult-like Brother Frank, who rules his congregation with an iron fist. Though there’s no sexual abuse in Mark Obbie’s account, there is plenty of psychological abuse, dogmatism, and authoritarianism. It’s the story of how Tim Ginocchetti, a meek teenage boy who frequently struggled just to literally have his voice heard, murdered his mother Pam after a lifetime of controlling parenting. The fact that Tim came out as gay certainly did not endear him anymore to the congregation after the crime. Brother Frank has denied that he or his cultish behavior were implicated in Pam’s mental problems, but author Obbie presents evidence that they clearly were. He also knows how to write a good story and he does so here with detail and character development.

 This is a very sad, well-researched story about a young man who murdered his mother and the influence of the church on the family’s relationships. The author creates a lot of empathy for the son and his grandmother, while not excusing or diminishing the son’s horrific actions. We can only hope that the son receives the mental health help he needs while incarcerated.

“Gay Is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny” edited by Michael G. Long— One of the Most Significant Figures in Gay Rights

gay is good

Michael G. Long (author and editor). “Gay Is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny”, Syracuse University Press, 2014.

One of the Most Significant Figures in Gay Rights

Amos Lassen

Those of us who have worked within the Gay Rights Movement are well aware of Frank Kameny (1925-2011) and that he was one of the most significant figures in the it. Already in 1958, he encouraged gay people to embrace their homosexuality as moral and healthy. “He publicly denounced the federal government for excluding homosexuals from federal employment and he openly fought the military’s ban against gay men and women, debated psychiatrists who depicted homosexuality as a mental disorder, identified test cases to advance civil liberties through the federal courts, acted as counsel to countless homosexuals suffering state-sanctioned discrimination, and organized marches for gay rights at the White House and other public institutions”. He was THE MAN.

In his book “ Gay Is Good”, Michael Long shares Kameny’s historically rich letters, and they reveal some of the early stirrings of today’s politically powerful LGBT movement. If you had ever met or heard Frank, you can expect these letters to be full of life and wit. He was loud but he was fair; he said what he felt and to whom he felt like saying it to whether it be the White House, the Pentagon or British Parliament. He spoke to federal agency heads, military generals, and media personalities and he wrote them countless letters. This book is a collection of approximately 150 letters that date from 1958 to 1975—this was a critical period in Kameny’s life. During it, he moved from being a victim to a vocal opponent of the law and actually he became the voice of the law.

Long arranges the letters in context and gives the historical and biographical information about to whom the letters were written and why. This book is a tribute to the man who advocated for our rights at a time when others would not speak up. Kameny was tireless and he is responsible for advocating the shift in social attitudes and practices and he opened the doors to our closets that will never be shut again.

 “Frank Kameny is an ideal subject for a published letters volume not just because of his important achievements as a Washington D.C. gay activist, but also because of his skill as a writer, in particular his ability to use language that conveyed rational analysis, rhetorical hyperbole, urgency, sarcasm, wit, and prescience all at the same time. The letters are a joy to read”. –Craig Loftin, California State University, Fullerton

 “The LGBT movement has been blessed with an amazing array of passionate, provocative, colorful, dedicated, and sometimes infuriating women and men. Frank Kameny is certainly one of the most important. Michael Long’s magnificent book captures the breadth of the movement and the specificity of Kameny s life and importance”. –Michael Bronski, Harvard University

 “Michael Long has provided a window into a time that’s already largely forgotten as seen through the eyes of perhaps the most transformative, persistent, and original thinker, mover, and finger-shaker in the history of the gay civil rights movement”. –Eric Marcus, Author of Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights

“My Queer Life” by Callen Harty— 30 Years of Activism

my queer life

Harty, Callen. “My Queer Life”, ADS, 2014.

30 Years of Activism

Amos Lassen

 “My Queer Life” is a selection of one activist’s writing over a 30-year period. This book follows his life as a gay man living in a straight world. The author is a well-known community activist in Wisconsin’s queer community. Here we have his speeches, poetry, essays, monologues, and journal notes on a variety of topics with the central theme of living an authentic queer life. Include is material from an early tentative coming out journal and a note to a speech delivered before more than a thousand people at a pride event. We have Facebook notes and blog entries about today’s issues as well selections from produced plays, published essays, and more. Everything focuses living life as an out and proud gay man.

The author writes of coming out in a conservative small town, of losing friends to the hate and violence perpetrated on gay men or on themselves in suicide, about getting sober, of surviving sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a relative. Harty writes thoughtfully about finding the best in himself and in others. The essays are brief but they say a lot.

“The Diverted Verdict” by Lance Solomon— A Personal Story

the diverted verdict

Solomon, Lance. “The Diverted Verdict”, Creative Space Publishing, 2014.

A Personal Story

Amos Lassen

This is a story that is so fantastic that I had to do some research to understand what really happened and honestly, I am still a bit shaken by what I learned. Lance Solomon lived in Corunna, Michigan, a small farming community. He comes from a middle-class family and his mother suffered from a Bipolar disorder. When she suddenly died, many questions arose and went unanswered. He and his mother were very close probably because his father worked long hours and what happened here occurred after he had retired from the automobile industry. Solomon was concerned about learning the truth about his mother’s death and he asked his father and siblings to make him the legal representative for the family. He had no idea how much this would change his life forever.

His mother’s death was ruled as suicide but when the answers to some of the unanswered questions would later come out brought about a wrongful death lawsuit against a psychiatrist. The defendant brought out secrets introduced a new theory of her death. Solomon’s mother had been murdered. His mother’s death changed Lance’s life forever. When the murder theory was revealed, some family members tried to stop the lawsuit but were unable to. Murder has been just a theory but suddenly it became very real and the outcome of the jury trial surprised and divided the family.

Years passed and we move forward to 1999 at which time Lance told his family that he was gay and the family found his lifestyle to be unacceptable. Nonetheless, things were going good for him and he fell in love and was happy. But then strange events began and Solomon began to lose control as his life headed toward rock bottom. There were custody battles, lawsuits and governmental agencies.  It was obvious that someone was pulling strings behind the scenes and new questions arose. Was it possible that his mother’s suicide/murder theory as well as his own destruction were part of some strange master plan? He exposed secrets that the family did not out in the open. It was now sixteen years after his mother’s death and it had never been solved. Today it is still unsolved. Solomon is now at work writing about the rest of the story and we shall just have to wait.

The book he is writing now , “Investigation 47” will pick up where this book ends. It deals with his rise and fall after being diagnosed HIV Positive then spiraling down and loosing everything. He tells of his battle to pick himself back up from being homeless and sexually abused by a group of men. This led to his being put in dangerous life threatening circumstances only to realize it was not just a personal struggle. He was being treated like a sexual servant and loosing his civil rights in the community. This led to suicide attempts but after he met a man with his own pre calculated plan to destroy him.

 Solomon is correct in his thinking that someone behind the scenes was working against him. After reading this I was and still am unsure about what to believe. Solomon is not a writer but his story is interesting to the point that I could stop reading. I have no conclusions and I am sure that there are those who read this that indeed do have conclusions. I am just not sure what to think.

“Moab is My Washpot” by Stephen Fry— The Early Years

moab is my washpot

Fry, Stephen. “Moab Is My Washpot”, Soho Press, 2014.

The Early Years

Amos Lassen

I have heard so much about this memoir by Stephen Fry and am so lucky that one of my British friends sent me a copy. It is due to be released in the United States in November of this year. It is “funny, shocking, tender, delicious, sad, lyrical, bruisingly frank and addictively readable”. It tells us that Fry was sent to a boarding school 200 miles from home at the age of seven where he survived beatings, misery, love, ecstasy, carnal violation, expulsion, imprisonment, criminal conviction, probation and catastrophe. When he reached the age of eighteen, he was ready to try and face the world in which he had always felt a stranger.

Fry is a master of quick wit as well as shocking candor. Since his PBS television debut in the “Blackadder” series, the American profile of this multitalented writer, actor and comedian has grown steadily, especially in the wake of his title role in the film “Wilde”, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and his supporting role in “A Civil Action”. In his earlier biography of his adolescent years, “The Liar”, we were given a taste of his writing ability. Now he takes us back to the years before that period. He was one of the very few Cambridge University graduates to have been imprisoned prior to his freshman year and we certainly see that he is a brilliantly idiosyncratic character who continues to attract controversy, empathy and real devotion.

Fry is prone to moments of weakness. He disappeared in 1995 after walking out of the play he was a part of, contemplating suicide and eventually surfacing in Belgium. Even when he was young, he had issues with depression, and he had a habit of lying, cheating and stealing.  He even tells us about the period in his youth in which he stole a credit card and went on a criminal spending spree, eventually ending up in jail.

We learn some things about Fry that we probably never wanted to know—more happened to Fry in the first twenty years of his life than to most people by the age of their retirement, and it’s fascinating to read all about it in his own words. Fry writes with wit and wisdom, and it is fun to read about him in his own words. There are times we feel that we are actually at Stouts Hill Prep School with him. He makes us so comfortable that we feel we are reading what a good friend has written.

“Moab is my Washpot” sets you up perfectly for Fry’s later autobiography, “The Fry Chronicles”, which covers the later periods of his early life including his higher education and his meetings with some of the stars that he shaped a career with, including comedy partner Hugh Laurie. There are times that the book is a bit self-indulgent but that’s ok—like the rest of us, Fry is far from perfect. He suffered from anti-social behavior, his resentment of his father, his confused Judaism, his true feelings about his homosexuality, his relentless low esteem and self loathing .I imagine that this book was a form of therapy for him.

“The engaging Mr. Fry admits to lies, thievery, homosexuality, excessive cleverness, and other peccadilloes in this boarding-school adventure . . . An author in the long and honorable tradition of English Eccentrics, Theatrical Division, presents his coming-of-age story. With all the wit and Pythonesque antics, his book will entertain the Masterpiece Theatre crowd and others as well.”

Fry tried to commit suicide several times since his first attempt at age 18 (described with great sensitivity in the book) and this makes this book a bit disturbing. He suffers from a bipolar disorder but he does not say so here and I wish that he had. It might have clarified some of what I was unsure about. Even with all of his wit and charm, this is a chilling and sometimes confusing yet delightful read. That might sound contradictory until you read it yourself.

“Integral Voices on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: Critical Inquiries” edited by Sarah E. Nicholson and Vanessa D. Fisher— Gendered, Sexual Self in a Postmodern World

integral voices

Nicholson, Sarah E. and Vanessa D. Fisher, editors. “Integral Voices on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: Critical Inquiries”, (Suny Series in Integral Theory), State University of New York Press, 2014.

A Gendered, Sexual Self in a Postmodern World

Amos Lassen

In “Integral Voices”, we get a new and unique approach to what it means to be a gendered, sexual self in a postmodern world. It presents insights based on the Integral paradigm of theory and practice. With the inquiry into sex, gender, and sexuality having become so broad today and with diverse voices within both academia and popular culture, the Integral approach makes sense of the various theories and agendas present in this discussion. This volume contains essays and criticisms of the integral paradigm.

We hear from the works of Sri Aurobindo, Gregory Bateson, Jean Gebser, Ervin Laszlo, and Ken Wilber to name a few and see that the Integral approach acknowledges and works with multiple and contradictory experiences, theories, and realities. We have a variety of topics which include feminism, the men’s movement, sexual identity, queer history, and spirituality and the contributors come from varied backgrounds personally and politically and from varied academic and practitioner schools of thought and from differing genders. This gives different voices and opinions that show complex and integrated understanding of what it means to be woman, man, human. The articles in the book are

concerned with significant issues and thereby push the conversation forward. These essays are provocative volume and they bring us to consider a critical inquiry that transforms our philosophy and our personal thoughts. What we read here might not be especially comfortable but it does contain a great deal of thought and information. We deal with questions here of ”how is Spirit fully recognized and fulfilled in its myriad gendered, sexual embodiments in this integral age? What blinds us from recognizing (both individually and collectively) and from fulfilling (individually and collectively) our sexual complexity and gender creativity?”

Some of the topics considered here are “a history of the women’s movement, a challenge for the men’s movement, an inquiry into gay cultures, an evaluation of sexual harassment, interrogations of feminine essentialism and masculine bias, a window to artistic practice, and a vision of sex education”.

“Not only does this volume serve gender, feminist, and men’s studies by bringing and integral approach to bear on its multilayered topics, but it also serves Integral Theory by modeling critical inquiry that is generative. So while Integral Theory can offer an integrative framework to a field that is often paralyzed by its own diversity, it can also benefit greatly from this same field by developing a more self-critical and reflective approach to model building and theorizing.” This is a look at a more constructive, nuanced, compassionate set of discussions around being a gendered and sexual human being.

“Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings” by Juana Maria Rodriguez— Sexual Politics

sexual futures

Rodriguez, Juana Maria. “Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings”,  (Sexual Cultures), NYU Press. 2014.

Sexual Politics

Amos Lassen

In her book “Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings”, author Juana Maria Rodriguez gives us a new way of looking at sexual politics and proposes that we examine them with reference to ”the interstices between radical queer desires and the urgency of transforming public policy, between utopian longings and everyday failures”. She uses the stereotype considering the ways in which bodily movement is assigned cultural meaning, Juana María Rodríguez takes the stereotypes of “the hyperbolically gestural queer Latina femme body as a starting point from which to discuss how gestures and forms of embodiment inform sexual pleasures and practices in the social realm”.

Her focus is on the sexuality of radicalized queer female subjects, including burlesque border crossings, daddy play, pornography, sodomy laws, and sovereignty claims and in this way to bring forward “alternative sexual practices and machinations that exist outside the sightlines of mainstream cosmopolitan gay male culture”. “Forms of agency continually mediate among these various structures of legibility—the rigid confines of the law and the imaginative possibilities of the performative”. She looks at Puerto Rican activists who work toward self-determination alongside sexual performances on stage, in film including commercial porn, in multi media, in dance and in the bedroom.

 commercial pornography, in multi-media installations, on the dance floor, and in the bedroom. She shows that projections of radicalized sex become part of over mediums such as discourse and the coming together of racial and gendered anxieties and also appears in gestures and utterances of sexual acts, kinship structures, and activist practices.

We see how sex has been deployed in contemporary queer communities in order to radically change sexual politics.

Rodriguez contributes to the study of gender and sexuality by mobilizing the stereotype of the Latina and she is a critic to be reckoned with.