Monthly Archives: October 2012

“THE ADVOCATE FOR FAGDOM”— The Films of Bruce LaBruce

 

DIVE INTO THE WORK OF PROVOCATEUR BRUCE LABRUCE

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Viewers who pride themselves on political correctness might want to stay away from The Advocate for Fagdom – and the films of Bruce LaBruce in general. Though his work has never satisfied all tastes, Bruce LaBruce is a satirist and provocateur without whom the New Queer Cinema movement of the late 20th century could never have happened.

 His career began with queer underground magazines that made a tongue-in-cheek attempt to inject homoeroticism into the style of the often homophobic punk rock and skinhead scenes. The invention of the initially fictitious “Homocore Movement” was born partly out of LaBruce’s attraction to rough and aggressive punk boys, but proved so stylistically alluring that it grew into an actual subculture.

 His films came not long after. Low-budget, uninhibited, Andy Warhol-inspired works like No Skin Off My Ass, Super 8 ½, Hustler White, Skin Flick and The Raspberry Reich are simultaneously sexy, shocking and funny while shining a light on bizarre subcultures. They turned LaBruce into an underground hero – and apparently Kurt Cobain’s favorite filmmaker. His films challenge conservative gay culture and break down any concrete, status quo ideas audiences may have about gay life and sexuality.

The Advocate for Fagdom is a consistently compelling documentary that offers up numerous perspectives on the notorious filmmaker. There is a plethora of footage from throughout LaBruce’s career and a thoroughly impressive collection of interviews with admirers (John Waters, Harmony Korine and Gus Van Sant among them). There is also some exciting footage that takes us behind-the-scenes of L.A. Zombie with porn stars like Francois Sagat, Matthew Rush and the late Erik Rhodes.

Longtime LaBruce fans will find plenty of backstage insight to enjoy. And for anyone unfamiliar with his work, younger gay viewers in particular, The Advocate for Fagdom is a pretty great place to start catching up. Diving into any director’s filmography can be a daunting task, but these films in particular are often so abrasive and intentionally crude that they can be off-putting to the uninitiated who don’t know exactly what to expect. This movie, though, gives a clear idea of what these films are all about and should leave viewers wanting more. The Advocate for Fagdom hits DVD shelves on November 20th, but you can pre-order your copy now at TLAgay.com. – Rob O

“American Hipster: The Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement” by Hilary Holladay— Herbert Huncke— Hustler/Writer/Junkie

Holladay, Hilary. “American Hipster: The Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement”, Magnus Books, 2013.

Herbert Huncke— Hustler/Writer/Junkie

Amos Lassen

This is the first biography of Herbert Huncke who was the man that during the beat era, turn the group onto sex, drugs and the counterculture and this went on to shape their writings and their lives while at the same radicalized American literature. Huncke was a sex worker in New York and he was also a heroin addict who managed to get Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs to take a look at him. He was an existentialist whose life bordered on despair and the term “beat” actually came from his quotation, “I’m beat man” and the term beat went on to signify and define the generation that searched for some kind of spiritual guidance and sustenance in post World War II America.

We find references to Huncke in Burroughs’s “Junky”, his account of his heroin addiction, in Ginsberg’s “Howl” and in Kerouac’s ”On the Road” but Huncke was more than just a character to these writers who loved his stories and they helped him to publish them. He appears in the biographies of the other beats but this is the first time we have his own life story. We see him as a youth in Chicago, his alliances with the beat writers and with Alfred Kinsey, the sexologist and we read of his adventures in America and in prison. He had a stormy relationship with Louis Cartwright who was killed in 1994 and whose murder remains unsolved still.

The book gives us a new perspective on the beat generation and the movement and is based on interviews between the author and friends of Huncke and representatives of the literary estates of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. We also learn of his unpublished correspondence and journals which are now at Columbia University. His life was influential and gritty and through this biography we really learn a lot about him. The book is an intelligent look at the man and the research is amazing.

 

“One in Every Crowd” by Ivan E. Coyote— On the Outside

Coyote, Ivan E. “One in Every Crowd”, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012.

On the Outside

Amos Lassen

In the new novel, Ivan E. Coyote writes about an outsider== a young boy who steals his mother’s lipstick, a girl who is unsure of hers/his gender identification and to others who just do not fit in the way society sees fit.

The book is divided into six parts and it is up to the reader to piece it all together as the stories overlap and fade into each other and in actuality this is the author’s own story from growing up in the Yukon to the present and it is intermingled with the stories of some of the youngsters met along the way. There is a lot to think about here especially when most of us realize that we too categorize others.

The themes here are family, love and acceptance something that all of us go through. What is so amazing about these stories is that they are sensitive and filled with heart. While the stories are quite strong they appeal to our emotions and to show us more than two sides to many issues. It is easy to surmise that this collection is written for young adults but it really has something for everyone and it is really meant to help those outsiders. I would love to see this book in the hands of the bullies and those that cause trouble for our youth. We see what it is to be different and it is a wonderful support for those who need it.

 

 

 

“What Comes Around” by Jameson Currier— Looking for Love

Currier, Jameson. “What Comes Around”, Chelsea Station Editions, 2012.

 Looking for Love

 Amos Lassen

There are a few authors whose names alone let me know that I am in for a good read before I even open their books. Jameson Currier is one of those. Here is a collection of his short stories built around the theme of a single man looking for love. Fifteen stories span a forty year period that take us to all the possible scenarios one meets as he searches for a relationship. I can only imagine that the stories are personal to a degree yet they reflect what so many others go through. The title of each story begins with the word “what” and looks at topics from “What You Learn” to “What You Feel” to “What You Save”. And each story is told by an unnamed narrator so it is quite easy to insert your own name there.

Whether our guy is on a blind date as he is in “What You Talk About” (a date with a guy via a personal ad) or he feels pain because a guy makes you feel really bad as he does in “What You Feel”, you find that these stories reflect many of our own experiences. Currier has a way with words and he is at home with straight forward narrative and with erotica. What I also like about these stories is that if you have not been part of what they are about, you most likely will and to me that is the sign of an author who knows what he is writing about. I do not want to talk about each story but I do want to say that this is a terrific collection. Chelsea Station Editions is somewhat new to our community and with the release of some 20 books, I can tell you honestly that each a worthwhile and enjoyable reading experience. If you have not read any of them you should and you might think about beginning right here with Currier whose has created this press.

 

“THE PAPERBOY”— Love, Honor, Redemption and Connection

“The Paperboy”

Love, Honor, Redemption and Connection

Amos Lassen

 

It is not often that we get a film that is able to reflect the world that we live in. What we see in “The Paperboy” is that what we need now is love and connection between people but unfortunately these ideas have been touched by lies and dishonesty. Here we meet Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), a journalist who has returned to his hometown to investigate the case of Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Van Wetter now is on death row and Jensen is not sure that he received a fair trial. His attention to the case has drawn by Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) who has been corresponding with Van Wetter and she thinks that she is in love with him. Jensen brings a colleague with him, Yardley Acheman (David Oyewolo), a black journalist from London and they are aided by Jensen’s younger brother, Jack (Zach Efron). Jack is living at home and being raised by Anita Chester (Macy Gray), the family maid who is close to Jack as his own mother might have been had she not left home.

What unites the characters is that something has happened to each one regarding either connect to or love for another person. Jack’s relationship with the family maid, for example, is tainted by racism and even though there is love between the two, Jack knows that racism denies them the chance to have an even deeper connection. Jack’s relationship with his brother Ward is tenuous because Ward has a rough time accepting his homosexuality. Charlotte finds love by corresponding with a man in prison and she thinks that Van Wetter lovers her. This is such a delusion on her part that she cannot accept love offered by Jack and she doesn’t seem to understand. She like Ward is self-destructive. Jack loves Charlotte and this is probably the result of having been abandoned by his own mother. Yardley’s problems are because of his race and he feels that he cannot ever rise above a lowly position and this is what causes him to betray Ward. (The film is set in 1969). Director Lee Daniels shows us the damage that is done when people are forced to behave in ways that are not pleasant and this, in turn, puts us in a world of dishonesty and brutality.

Innocence, idealism and romanticism face opportunism and sociopathic behavior and some of what happens is not too much of a surprise. The film is a look at the characters as they deal with the question of guilt. The themes of prejudice and journalistic ethics are what we first think is going on here but there is so much more.

“Sucking Sherbet Lemons” by Michael Carson— Coming Out and Growing Up

Carson, Michael. “Sucking Sherbet Lemons”, Cutting Edge, 2012.

Coming Out and Growing Up

Amos Lassen

Benson is 14, fat and Catholic and he believes in doing the right thing as much as he likes sweets and other boys. He hides from himself and joins a monastery but the devil finds him there and bring him back into the world and back to school. He seems to have no luck coming to terms with himself and his story is very clever. He reminds us of what it is like being gay in school and in a society that doesn’t really want people like him.

What Benson finds at the monastery is temptation and he realizes that he is better off than when he was at his own school so comes back and continues to deal with conflict and desire. We see, through Benson, that sexual tolerance is superficial and it is, as if, a reflection of the larger society. He suffers humiliation because he is fat and is having trouble dealing with his sexuality. Actuality this is not a new book but it is new to us in the United States. It does not matter when it was written because what it is about is timeless and the author has us laughing and crying at the same time.

Carson has the ability to share the feelings of a teenager when he realizes that he is gay and not like everyone else. We share his loneliness and we see the hypocrisy of the world in which he lives. We sense his pain when his parents set him aside and the fear he felt when his mother died. We are taken, once again, into the painful period of adolescence and the effect that religion has on him and there is something of each of us here.

 

 

 

 

 

”Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality” by John Schwartz— Helping One to Cope

Schwartz, John.”Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality”, Gotham Books, 2012.

Helping One to Cope

Amos Lassen

John Schwartz is a national correspondent for the New York Times whose thirteen year old son decided to take his own life (unsuccessfully). Schwartz received a call telling him that his son, Joe, was in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Joe had just come out to his classmates at school and this was not met with what he had hoped and hours afterwards, he took an overdose of pills. Joe and Jeanne, his wife, learned that Joe’s school could not address their son’s needs and they became angry and frustrated yet level-headed enough to do their own search for services and groups that would help Joe understand that he was not alone. This book is Schwartz’s personal attempt to deal with his own family’s struggle as members of a society that is in the midst of rapid change.

The narrative here is interwoven with the questions that so many ask—“Are effeminate boys and tomboy girls necessarily gay? Is there a relationship between being gay and suicide or mental illness? Should a child be pushed into coming out?” This is a book that deals with crucial lessons about helping gay kids –and any kid who is different — learn how to cope in a potentially hostile world. Schwartz and his wife had suspected that Joe was gay even from the time when he was a baby and they wanted to love and support him but they felt the pressures of being an out high student just as their son did and we see this in the way Schwartz writes of his son’s childhood. How they as parents deal with it all is what this very important book is about and we are very lucky to have it.

 

 

 

“Frame of Reference” by Christopher Stone— Pursuing Stardom

Stone, Christopher. “Frame of Reference”, MLR Press, 2012.

Pursuing Stardom

Amos Lassen

Grant Jackson grew up and lives in a small town but he dreams of living in the big city and becoming a star on television. He has little money or resources and knows no one in Hollywood but his determination takes him there. He has a hard time staying focused on his dream as he is like a kid in a candy star and is soon caught up in the gay Hollywood scene and in the seedier side of life.

Grant is a good-looking man whose fascination with television fueled his dreams and each period of his life is related to something he saw on the TV. He decides that he must follow his dreams but his road is a rough and tough one and filled with challenges that he had not anticipated. He becomes discouraged often but not disheartened and although he does not want love in his life, he did not compromise himself for it. In hopes of finding fame, he enters the adult film industry and also became a male escort and while these bring him a sense of excitement, he thinks that they are just steps to a career.

In his hometown he had lived with his parents as he saved to make the move. His mother stood by him while his father was a homophobe and a religious person. Grant knows that his talents are limited but he is determined to make it as a TV star. He had been wounded by love when his actor boyfriend left him and so he set off after his dreams to a place where dreams are broken all the time.

He soon discovers that Hollywood is far from being the land of milk and honey (in fact the honey is bitter and the milk is sour) but he is not deterred. He is rejected over and over by agents but he pulls himself together, finds a job waiting tables and a gay bar with a back room and a place for sexual liaisons.  After having been in a “threeway”, he learns that one of the guys works for a porn and escort company and while this is not the kind of life he really wants, the money is good and he soon becomes sought after and meets Cameron Cody, THE star of the gay porn industry.

Here is the point that changes his life and his own rule of never allowing himself to fall in love again amounts to naught. He is soon crazy in love with Cameron. He never forgets his dream and when he and Cameron team up, things seem to get better. Stone has created quite a character in Grant, a man determined to be what he wants. He is able to see good in whatever he does even when he seems to be working against himself.

Stone is at home in this world and he is an excellent writer with a touch of sardonic wit and his erotic scenes are very hot. I was totally amazed at the way he pulled me into his story especially since this is his first novel. His prose is simple but just right and Stone tells us a tale that allows us to draw mental pictures of what we read.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Asthmatic Glassblower: and other poems” by Billeh Nickerson— Being Different and Belonging

Nickerson, Billeh. “The Asthmatic Glassblower: and other poems”, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000.

Being Different and Belonging

Amos Lassen

 

Billeh Nickerson takes on a poetic journey into the world that he sees through his rainbow tinted eyes. He chronicles life, a life of pleasure and wonder– the world in which he is “other”. He knows he is different yet he wants to belong to it. He is witty and full of mischief, erotic and nervy and his verse is fun and intelligent. His poems are both fragile and tender and he is brutally honest in his outpourings. The poems are divided into three sections and the first “Sometimes Gay Means Happy” contains a look at the young poet as he provocatively explores the nature of man/man love. I understand that the poems in the section are not new and were published separately in 1997 and they certainly are a stepping stone to what he writes in later years. Section two, “February” is Dickerson’s reminiscences of his childhood while section three, “Persuading the Imaginary” and here are poems of loss, identity, awareness and discovery and they vacillate between young and old and then leave us in the present where memory is not as clear as it once was. Dealing with the truths of the emotions and written with wonderful wit, we meet a guy filled with awe and wonder. There is poignancy to the poems that is really beautiful.

 

Stories for Boys” by Gregory Martin— Fathers and Sons

Martin, Gregory. “Stories for Boys: A Memoir”, Hawthorne Books, 2012.

 Fathers and Sons

 Amos Lassen

 Gregory Martin’s memoir is his way of reconciling his father’s behavior. He thought he knew the man who recently survived a suicide attempt and was a man who had been married to his mother for 39 years but has also been having anonymous affairs with men during that marriage. His father is about to begin his life as a gay man. Here we have a father and son trying to build a relationship with one another after years of suppression and lies.

 Martin takes a good hard look at the impact his father’s secret life has had upon his life as a father of and a husband. The book puts before us the questions of how well we know people and how much we have to know so that we can keep loving them. Martin thought he knew his father and then, in an instant, he saw everything change and this made him consider his own role as a father. There are also instances while reading that cause the reader to look at the unresolved issues in his own life.

 We learn that Martin’s father had been molested by his own father for ten years and then added that during his own marriage to his mother he had been having sex with men and that he knew he was gay. This is a story the author never dreamt of hearing much less writing about and we are right there as father deals with his sons, himself and his faith. Written beautifully, this book shows a man making sense of his broken world. It is a moving and sensitive look at a father and his son and it is a beautiful and redemptive story. Martin had assumed that his parents were who they seemed to be, a couple who shared a lovely relationship and provided for their children but when he discovers his father’s secret life, everything else about his parents becomes questionable. This is a story that is personal yet Martin feels we should know it too and he tells it to us in beautiful ways using beautiful prose.