Monthly Archives: December 2012

Two Novellas from Mykola Dementiuk— “Times Square…In Brooklyn?” and “A Sucker for the Circus”

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Two Novellas from Mykola Dementiuk

I have reviewed almost everything that Dementiuk has written with the exception of these two which because of the nature of the plots to say anything would give everything away so I will just mention them.

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Dementiuk, Mykola. “Times Square…In Brooklyn?”, eXtasy Books, 2011.

A Change of Life

Our hero left the Times Square area to live in Brooklyn where he thinks that it will be better for hm. Dementiuk takes the seediness of Times Square and transposes it to Brooklyn where the boys landlord makes him into a French and he becomes subservient totally.

sucker 

Dementiuk, Mykola. “A Sucker for the Circus”, Amazon Digital, 2011.

Threatening Curses

Once again a change of location for Dementiuk and this story is so strange that all I can say is that it deals with a big breasted woman who feels she is threatened by a curse.

“Times Square Cutie” by Mykola Dementiuk— Bad Boy Billy

times square cutie

Dementiuk, Mykola. “Times Square Cutie”, Sizzler Editions, 2010.

Bad Boy Billy

Amos Lassen

Bad Boy Billy knows he is cute and he loves the attention he gets because of it. Both men and women desire him and he wants them as well. He can be categorized as being gender fluid—when he is with his girlfriend, Rebecca, he is all man and when he is with a man, he dresses like a woman.

Several men and women just think that Billy is the hottest they have ever seen and it cost some people their lives. When he first met Rebecca, she talked him into abetting her to steal money from her older lover and when they found him dead, they got away with the cash. The money seems to make Billy randy and he has sex with Rebecca but before they have finished, two of Billy’s friends make an appearance and partners are switched and each leaves with someone else. Billy’s friends, of course, discover that he has money now and violence ensues.

This is the story of three “friends” (or should I say acquaintances?) who come together by accident and who should never have met each other. Billy is the confused one—a boy who likes dressing as a woman but does not consider himself to be a transvestite. He doesn’t think of himself as gay even though he loves servicing men orally.

Rebecca, on the other hand, is definitely disturbed. She enjoys having public sex with people watching but she can be a prude when she speaks. She has a vivid imagination and imaginary friends and an imaginary job. Her older love died while they were having sex but she thinks he is only sleeping.

Hector follows opportunities and uses both Billy and Rebecca for his own pleasure. He is quite violent yet he is also tender and when he learns that Rebecca’s lover is dead and there is money everywhere, he enlists his gang to come and get what is there. Things do not go as planned and the only one left alive is Billy. But there is something else—the money turns out to be counterfeit.

Dementiuk once again takes us to that place in New York City where seediness reigned and that always looks dirty regardless of the time of day. He gives us the story of desperation and of lost people during a lost time and there is no hope on the horizon for them. Here is the story of a lost boy who will probably die young if he does not change the way he lives and Dementiuk gives it to us in all of its gritty detail.

 

“Murder in Times Square” by Mykola Dementiuk— Times Square, the Late 60’s

murder in times square

Dementiuk, Mykola. “Murder in Times Square”, eXtasy Books, 2010.

Times Square, the Late 60’s

Amos Lassen

Let’s go for a walk to the sleazy area near Times Square but first you have to imagine that it is the late 1960’s-early 70’s when sidewalks were covered with empty beer and liquor bottles and where sex was for the taking at a small price. This is the milieu of Mykola Dementiuk and the main character of this story. It wasn’t as much decadent as it was gritty and seedy and known for illicit and anonymous sex and criminal activity.

The sex was quick and could involve anything from a hand job to getting laid and it usually took place between strangers and in a downtrodden and cheap hotel in the neighborhood or in one of the porn movie houses just blocks away from one of America’s most famous landmark and where many come to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Our “hero” (for lack of a better word because there is nothing heroic about him) discovers that he has become involved with the wrong “lady”. Connie was to change his life and this was not a good thing. She was as Dementiuk tells us “a murderous whore” because of having killed someone while drunk and our boy gets dragged into it. I cannot say anymore about the plot but the story is really important for showing us how we once lived in New York City.

As always, Dementiuk writes with a sense of realism that we do not often find in our literature. Life was not always pretty, especially around Times Square.

“JAPAN JAPAN”— When Life is Drab

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 “Japan Japan”

When Life is Drab

Amos Lassen

I remember watching this film when it was released by WaterBearer films and not thinking much of it. Even with that, “Japan Japan” found its way into my heart when I re-watched it this afternoon. Having spent many years in Israel, it was a special treat to see that gay films not only are being made in Israel, they are also thriving there. I loved being able to watch it and recognize places and remembering walking on those very same streets past the very same stores. While I discounted the film when I first saw it, I am now the wiser in dealing with film and I see how wrong I was then. There is a lot going on here and we will recognize the bond between ennui and wanderlust.

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Basically the story goes like this: It is the story of Imri, who at 19 goes to live in Tel- Aviv after having been raised in Ashdod. He dreams of living in Japan. We see his life through his relationships and encounters and in diverse cinematic tools. The film explores  living in the modern and exotic city of Tel Aviv  yet Imri is dreaming about another exotic place and while we are never really sure why he wants to live in Japan, we are not sure that he knows why either. What we see is “a unique correlation formed between the hero’s misconception of Japan and ours of him”.

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The film is “like a mash-up of all sorts of different styles. (i.e. at one point, you only see quoted white text on a black background. Another part of the movie feels like a music video and yet another part uses Google Earth and synchronizes the zoom-ins and zoom-outs to a song playing in the background”. There is no real structure to it and it looks very unprofessional. It uses the concept of visual freedom and there is no real plot or integration of themes.

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At first I was a bit lost trying to understand what was going on; the main character, Imri is also lost in the banality of his life. It disregards for narrative and consistency. It centers on the unfocused, under-employed Israeli boy/man  Imri (Imri Kahn) who spends his days dreaming of travel, downloading porn, and staring out the window when he isn’t gazing at his (or someone else’s) navel. The film does not tell a story—it is a view at Imri’s condition. Imri comes across as displaced and disenchanted and he sees that even leaving his family home does not give him the escape he needs—his troubles moved to Tel Aviv with him. Having left the Israel Defense Forces, the Army, he feels he is adult enough to move to Tel Aviv, work and save money so that he can get to Japan. We are privy to his ramblings, friendships, and nascent philosophy. Director Lior  “Shamriz links the audience to this purposeful slacker through the experimentations of late youth, not crucially through the identities of being queer or Israeli; the Middle East news is just one more set of sounds and images competing for attention. Defaulting a couple times too often to a goofy, show tune-singing friend’s video diary sent from New York, the film builds Imri’s imaginative bridges to everywhere he’s not by the accumulation of collage through the gamut of popular technology. If the young man’s construction of a 21st-century identity is a fragmented, multimedia process, its core is a recognizable attempt to sort priorities while being guided by passions”.

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What at first feels like juvenile punk nihilism soon turns into a study of teenage world-weariness, cleverly exploiting its own limitations by featuring songs, images and corporate logos which could never be secured legally. Shamriz’s debut feature, is  something of a documentary, a home movie which is digitally manipulated and “aggressively punctuated with pornographic inserts from an alternate image system, namely cyberspace”. Shamriz uses his “multiplicity of cinematic languages in an attempt to evoke a truer representation of life, to use the motion-picture not as a documentation of continuous 3D space but as a screen”. We see a ‘problem’ with this semi-improvised, post-everything riff on apathetic Tel Aviv “hipsterdom” and this is exactly the film’s chief value: a defiant disregard for narrative nicety and tonal consistency.  Shamriz has created a  unique and entertaining film. On the background of the hard political situation in Israel, Imri wants to find his own way outside his internal exile. And while the film appears to be a bit sloppy and unpolished but it makes up for that in its vision and vitality.

“WILDNESS”— Creativity and Conflict

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“Wildness”

Creativity and Conflict

Amos Lassen

One of the new films that many are talking about is “Wildness”, a documentary about a transgender immigrant at the Los Angeles bar, Silver Platter. The bar is part of the underground of the city and has been the home of Latin American immigrant communities since 1963. The bar actually becomes a character in the movie as we watch what happens when a party explodes. The bar was transformed into a once-a-week hangout for Latino transgender people. Filmmaker and director Wu Tsang captures the flavor of the bar in this amazing film. Several different groups try to coexist at the Silver Platter so we get to see a real mix of people.

The bar is the narrator of the film and we get the idea that the bar itself is a mother image to so many that come to spend time with her. She is located at McArthur Park and we meet the owners, Nora and Gonzalo Ramirez as well as some of the drag queens that congregate there. Everyone is treated fairly and nobly, something we do not see a whole lot of.

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Tsang is a mixed race performance artist who is androgynous and magnetic. The bar provides both sanctuary and opportunity for him. We get to a wild party night and the bar that was once a safe place for the Latino LGBT community becomes something else. One of the problems is that many of the denizens are undocumented. There is also the issue that the Wildness parties do no good for the ecosystem. What we see is something like “dress up” and the director’s attempt to capture the goings on at the bar. There is a youthful performance arts community that calls the Silver Platter home but what it really is, we see, a transgendered club that sits right in the middle of the Latino community on the east side of the city. The film tries to deal with the major social issues—immigration, urbanism, safety, politics and equality and it does so with a sense of realism.

Director Tsang shows what must be done to create and keep a place like the Silver Platter and also speaks about a free legal clinic for transgender people and in doing this, the owners of the bar lose something of their control.

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“The film’s best and funniest moments portray stark contrasts. An elderly Mexican lady hobbles over to put dollar bills in the bust of a hot-pink blur, all flamenco dancing and ruffles. Silver Lake hipsters hit on scantily clad, heavily lip-lined ladies; those same ladies look on with quixotic interest at those same hipsters’ odd performance pieces (droning looped synths to faux blood-drenched naked bodies dancing under strobes). These scenes—brought to life through the bright transgendered stars and Tsang’s loving gaze of them—reveal the wonderful potential of places like the Silver Platter and Los Angeles as a whole, where repressed communities are given a home to express their creativity and shared exhilaration”.

The largely transgender and first- or second-generation immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and beyond provide the entertainment and  this documentary, “which not only documents but also re-views the complicated processes of identification, gentrification, community building, and dissolution that occur in this particular geography of an immigrant queer bar”. We not only get the history of the bar but also the history of the people who frequent it and those who populate it.

“Often bars like this are uneasy spaces of contestation, existing adjacent to businesses/organizations that would rather not see them survive (The Silver Platter is next to a church). Feelings run fever-pitch and deep, which means everyone cares. So when these communal spaces tear at the seams it is often frustratingly chalked up to infighting, pettiness, and jealousy. But really, if we were to broaden the frame these communities fracture in large parts due to pressures from outside of these queer world-making ventures”.

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“The filmmaker and three musical collaborators produce a weekly party at The Silver Platter on one of the slowest nights of the week, Tuesday. It is the party’s name, Wildness that gives this film its title. Misunderstandings are present, one of the regulars interviewed for the documentary describes the clientele of Wildness as “university students” and “white,” even though most of the organizers are people of color. This woman, and many regulars, refuses to call Wildness by its name and instead refer to the night as simply, “Martes” or Tuesday, minimizing any cultural cache the party may hold for its revelers, effectively leveling it through the powerful process of language. It is, after all, just another day of the week. This is yet another example of the many critical messes presented, and importantly left tangled. In leaving such antagonisms unresolved Tsang allows the audience to approach the bar, and the party, for the chameleonic entities they are… it would be too easy to present the weekly Wildness party as the antagonist to the protagonist of the bar’s regular denizens. The bar speaks gently to the filmmaker, calling him hijo, and not a moment later snarkily dismisses his concept of “safe space,” as though it were some kind of politically correct import”.

Transphobia is evident and many think that the real women at the bar are prostitutes but the party goes on nevertheless. This is a film unlike you have ever seen and as it is shown it picks up more and more steam.

“Times Queer” by Mykola Dementiuk— Coming of Age in the 1950’s

times queer

Dementiuk, Mykola. “Times Queer”, Synergy Press, 2008.

Coming of Age in the 1950’s

Amos Lassen

Richard Kozlovsky had a Catholic school education and he has grown up despite it. His classmates teased him and he had been sexually abused as a child. Now as a teenager, he discovers the notorious movie theaters on Times Square and frequents them to supplement his income. It is there that he met a woman who taught him about sex and love and he is confused as to who and what he really is. It is easy to say that he is sexually dysfunctional but there is more to Ricky than that.

He was no stranger to Times Square and participated in what went on there—public mutual masturbation, anonymous sex, etc. One he was preyed upon and then he became the predator. He used his youth and good looks as an advantage and he would often mug men after he had sex with them. When he meets a woman who he calls Red at one of the theaters, he begins to pimp for her.  She took him home to her rundown and seedy apartment once and he loses his virginity with a woman to her but decides that she is nothing more than a whore. He did not see her again until he needed to release some pent up sexual pressure.

He finds her having oral sex in a theater on 42nd Street and he and she leave together and they share another night of sex. No sooner did Richard leave her than he began to think of her again but she has a bunch of “clients” waiting to have their way with her. He walks the streets and has an unexpected liaison with a former classmate, Joey who wants to be sexually taken care of. Richard is afraid that he is becoming gay and runs but then a few days later he sees Red and Joey walking to Bryant Park and he follows them…

Like Dementiuk’s other writing, this is a sordid story based on realism and it describes how Times Square acquired the nickname of Times Queer. Some of this novella is a bit uncomfortable to read because of the descriptions of Ricky, as a kid, being molested by older men. This is a cold story and because Richard was victimized as a youngster, he finds it hard to deal with his sexuality and he comes across as quite sad. We do have to remember that we are looking at America some 50 plus years ago and now so much has changed. The story is valuable because it is about a period that was and if were the same things to happen to Richard today, we would probably get a different story.

“Gulliver Takes Five” by Justin Luke Zirilli— A Follow Up to “Manhattan”

gulliver takes five

Zirilli, Justin, Luke. “Gulliver Takes Five”, Encore, 2012.

A Follow Up to “Manhattan”

Amos Lassen

I always thought I was pretty much up-to-date on gay publishing but I learned that I am not. Just last week, I posted a review of “Gulliver Takes Manhattan” and ended it with hoping that there would be a sequel and sure enough it had already been written and on the market. Be that as it may, “Gulliver Takes Five” is not exactly a sequel; it is more of a “companion book”. You do not have to have read the earlier book to enjoy this but if you have, you will be better able to know the characters.

This book is about one night in the life of Gulliver Leveren as seen by his closest friends.  There are six friends: “Marty, Gully’s ex-boyfriend, who gets a shot at a breakthrough role that could propel him straight to Broadway; hotheaded Brayden, who copes with a breakup by carving a path of blistering revenge across the city; bickering exes Servando and Rowan, for whom a subway breakdown ignites a powder keg of drama and discovery; Gully’s former best friend Todd, whose job as a gay nightlife promoter is turning out to be anything but glamorous; and go-go boy Chase, finally facing some hard truths about his life—and trying to cope with his harsh reality”. Together we visit New York behind the scenes—the New York of party boys.

In this book, Gully is taking a break from the hectic Big Apple gay night life—he is still around in flashbacks but now the story belongs to his friends.  We go with Gully to a humongous party at eWrecksion and when he gets there, he notices that none of his friends have come. It seems that the day of the big bash, each friend has some kind of personal crisis. Sex and betrayal are everywhere as is revenge, romance and reunion. Something went on with Brayden at Fire Island, Marty is dealing with heartbreak, Chase is chasing his dreams Servando and Rowan’s relationship bounces like a volleyball and Todd is dealing with Gully’s betrayal and absence from the scene. So even though Gully is really not around much, we get a look at gay Manhattan through the eyes of others.

There are some serious themes discussed here—open relationships, communication, dealing with exes, self worth, self esteem and partying. It is like watching gay New York awaken in the morning and dealing with what happened the night before. We read about what happens when the glitz begins to tarnish. We see what happens when a relationship is opened-up.

“Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery” by Bill Clegg— Just Ninety Days

ninety days

Clegg, Bill. “Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery”, Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

Just Ninety Days

Amos Lassen

All Bill Clegg needed was just 90 days to be clean and lose the addiction that caused him to lose everything. He had been in rehab for six weeks and he then came back to New York and attended two or three meetings a day. At the meetings he became friendly with several people including Polly, a woman who was struggling with her own addictions and her recovery and relapse and Asa who seemed to be sober and unshakably so. In the beginning peer support did not work for Clegg and he relapsed with just three days to go. If you know or have known addicts you know how difficult that this can be. Clegg told us about his addictions in his first book “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” and this book picks up where the previous book stopped.

Clegg was determined not to fall into his addiction again—he had to rebuild his life. As he walked the streets of New York City, he faced memories of what he had been through and the struggles he experienced in trying to quit. The cravings for crack were powerful and he knew he could slide back into using and he does with just three days to go.

While “Portrait” was full of self-awareness, “Ninety Days” seems to be lacking the same self-awareness. Because of this, the book does not seem finished. Replacing self-awareness here is self-pity but we see it through the eyes of other characters. He seems to be crying about himself all of the time. It is as if he is telling us that his path to sobriety is the way to go, even when he tells us that co-dependency has replaced drugs in his life.

What we see here is that once the craving for drugs begins, it is almost impossible to stop and perhaps this might be difficult for some to understand if they are not familiar with the problems of substance abuse. It is certainly hard to imagine how someone who lost everything to drugs would fall back into using. I think we also must understand that even those of us who partook of recreational drugs in our earlier years have no idea what Clegg was going through. I find it frightening that someone has to deal with such issues. Clegg explains how a relapse can occur even when one makes the decision that to stay sober.

Here is a person who had a successful life and lost it. He returns to New York and is going to live in his brother’s office when the business is closed and spend his time going to Narcotics Anonymous and 12 Step Meetings during the day. He wants to salvage his life and the people that he sees at the meetings seem eager to help get back on track. He gets a sponsor to guide and help him but neither nor his new friends really seem to be what he needs. Out of boredom he went to the places he was told to stay away from and he saw people who could cause a relapse to occur. The temptation seems always present. Sometimes he has fond memories of using.

Clegg learns that he must be honest with himself but he has a great deal of trouble because he does not feel he is like the other addicts. He takes us into the world of recovery and we see it is not a pretty place.

Ninety days does not seem like a long time but if someone is struggling against an addiction even two days can be a long time. We see that even if someone gets through those ninety days, the journey is still ongoing.  It seems that recovery last forever and for me it is quite difficult to understand how something can so totally engulf a person. With Clegg, I had some problems. I began rooting him on but I became really angry when he relapsed and could not understand how he could be so stupid. The reality is that addiction is a sickness and there does not seem to be a cure for it.

The struggle is raw battle and while Clegg says he wants to get sober, I have to see it to know that he has succeeded. I do not personally know Clegg but I do have friends who are his friends (or were his friends before addiction) and I understand that he is a bright, good-looking guy. That is the Clegg I want to see and that is the Clegg that I want to begin writing about other things than his addiction. His writing here seems honest and his prose is quite good. His story is moving and hits us hard—I only hope that it hits him in the same way.

“Turnon: Gear” by Various Artists— Men in Gear

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Various Artists. “Turnon: Gear”, Bruno Gmunder Verlag, 2012.

Men in Gear

Amos Lassen

It seems that many men are into other men in gear—lycra industrial textiles, rubber, athletic uniforms and so on. “Turnon: Gear” is a new compilation of art work of men dressed in gear and worshipping the worlds of pleasure and fetish. This new volume in Gmunder’s popular Turnon series includes photographs by Joan Crisol, Mark Henderson, Joe Oppedisano, Dylan Rosser, Michael Stokes, Gaz, John Gress, Pedro Virgil,  Gaz, Tom Bianchi, Patrick Mettraux and considerable others among many others. We see here that sometimes men look really good when dressed and gear can make them look exceptionally “hot”. Some may think of the photos as macho to the hilt and here we see men dressed in all kinds of outfits representing various fetishes. The book is actually a celebration of fetish and the photographers successfully capture the beauty of men. The models are tanned and muscular and exude both beauty and power. One can almost feel the models’ stares from the page. They are all kinds of men yet comparable in their beauty. (You may never look at sportsmen the same way again).

 

Rainbow Book Fair— April 13 NYC Holiday Inn Midtown

SAVE THE DATE! .  .
Saturday * April 13, 2013
Noon-6pm

Holiday Inn Midtown
440 W. 57 St., NYC
New Location– 

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Be a part of the most exciting LGBT book event in the U.S. 
The 5th Annual New York Rainbow Book Fair will feature
more than 1OO publishers, writers, poets, editors, booksellers,
and the 15OO+ readers who love and buy their books-
from the serious to the wild, from the zany to the super hot.
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Register Through Jan. 15
For Early Bird Special Rates! 
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