Monthly Archives: October 2013

“LOSE YOUR HEAD”— A Psycho Thriller

lose your head

“Lose Your Head”

A Psycho Thriller

Amos Lassen

Luis (Fernando Tielve) is from Madrid and goes to Berlin for a fun summer weekend. He was getting over the end of a relationship and though that the club scene in Germany would be the best place to have sex and rid himself of the pain he feels. He thinks he might even fall in love again. What he did not know, however, was that a young Greek student has been missing and the resemblance between the two is uncanny. Soon Luis finds himself involved in several mysterious events. What was to have been a fun and romantic weekend becomes a chase through the streets of Berlin and his sense of belonging becomes paranoia.

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There is a hint early on that this is not going to be a good weekend. When Luis asks locals for directions, they answer him with an expression of disgust and say something about the Spaniards who have come to Berlin. The same anti-Spanish attitude seems to exist all over Germany. The Spanish tourists begin to stick together and the locals try hard to ignore them. With this tone established, Luis is able to find a way to get into a club. He found it necessary to leave his friends and holding on to a local girl. Once inside, he does some lines of coke with her and her drug addict friends. He also meets Viktor (Marco Mandic), a Slav who is illegally in Germany and pursues him sexually.

Luis has left his boyfriend in Madrid and goes to Berlin to have a drug filled sexual weekend. He finds just what he went for even though it meant that he had to ditch his Spanish friends. The first night was all he had hoped it would be but the next morning finds himself locked in an apartment. He manages to escape and runs directly into Viktor’s arms.

While this is happening, two Greek citizens, Kosta (Stavros Yagoulis) and Elena (Sesede Terziyan) are trying to find, Dimitri (Jan Amazigh Sid), Elena’s younger brother who is missing. Dimitri was a regular at the bars in Berlin and is much Luis in they both pursue a hedonistic lifestyle. As the story progresses, we sense that perhaps Viktor had something to do with Dimitri’s disappearance.

lose your head 1The basis for this film is a true story. Luis realizes that he is involved in something quite big. I found myself having a hard time getting into the film in the beginning but when the film turned into a thriller, I was on the edge of my chair. We see Luis as a mix of youthful fearlessness and naiveté while Viktor is both charming and mysterious. We waiver in opinion as to whether he is involved in the disappearance of Dimitri or not because of the charm exhibits. The title “Lose You Head” is apropos because we are not able to guess what is happening and each time we think we can figure it out, we are surprised by something being brought in that changes that.

This is what I would call a trippy thriller because of the way it messes with our minds. Just when we feel that the film is verging on the ridiculous and ludicrous, we are given the reason why. Here reality falls further and further away and we fade with it.

 

“In Bed with Gore Vidal” by Tim Teeman— ”Hustlers, Hollywood, and the Private World of an American Master”

in bed with gore

Teeman, Tim. “In Bed with Gore Vidal”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2013.

”Hustlers, Hollywood, and the Private World of an American Master”

Amos Lassen

Gore Vidal once said that there is no such thing as gay; there was only gay sex. He was closed about his relationship with his long time partner Howard Austen. Perhaps Vidal was not gay but he did have a lot of gay sex.

I figured that we would get a book like this after Vidal died. Teeman tells us what he discovered about Vidal’s sex and sexuality and how it influenced his life as a writer and as a public figure. Teeman interviewed Vidal’s family and friends and used his archives to give us a look at the man. We see that he became who he was because of the time in which he lived and his family. He became a public figure because that is what he created for himself. How Vidal regarded himself and his sexuality is a reflection of the time when gay men did not come out because to do so often caused one to be set apart from society.

Vidal was a complex and complicated man who lived within an artificial public persona. He existed within a shell of his own creation and from which he could not escape. We definitely see here that he lied often about his relationships and his sex life. He was friendly with Scotty Bowers who wrote about him in his own autobiography “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars”.

Vidal was known for his caustic tongue and the master of the put down. He had several arguments and some of them actually became lawsuits. He labeled William F. Buckley as a Nazi, “a Hitler without charm”. Buckley replied by calling Vidal a “pink queer” and this continued to escalate. He sued Norman Mailer and Buckley sued him. He was outspoken about Truman Capote and said that Capote’s best career move was to die.

Vidal spent time in Hollywood as a screenwriter and he knew many celebrities and stars and it is in this part of the book that names are dropped. He did not really get along with many people. He was Jacqueline Kennedy’s step cousin so naturally we read about his relationship with the Kennedy family. Robert Kennedy did not want him anywhere near the White House during JFK’s presidency because it would not look good that a homosexual was a member of the inner circle.

His relationship with Howard Austin has always been a mystery. He maintained that they did not have sex with each other yet he fell apart when Austin died. Austin was Vidal’s total opposite. He came from a middle-class family and was particularly smart but he was able to keep Vidal in his place. It seems that Vidal did not what he had with Austin until he died.

Vidal would not allow himself to be labeled or categorized but when we look at his body of work, we see that he was very much an advocate for sexual freedom. What we also see here is information about his final years in which he spiraled downward to alcoholism and dementia.

I am fairly sure that there will be a slew of books about Vidal now that he is gone. What surprises me is that only a few have come out so far. While this biography is sordid at times, we do see the genius that was Gore Vidal, a man who made many contributions to the literature of this country.

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“The Forever Marathon” by Jameson Currier— 24 Years— Jesse and Adam

the forever marathon

Currier, Jameson. “The Forever Marathon”, Chelsea Station Editions, 2013.

24 Years—Jesse and Adam

Amos Lassen

One of the first writers that I reviewed was Jameson Currier and the book was “Where the Rainbow Ends”. That book had a profound impact on me and I think that was because I was living out of the country during the AIDS epidemic and all that I knew about what went on in America was from what I read. Currier put a face on that horrible disease and I began to understand the total effect it had on this country and the gay community. That first book made me a fan and I have read and reviewed all of his books and have never been disappointed. I am always amazed at the diversity with which Currier writes and it reflects the diversity of the community.

We have reached a point that the gay community has achieved varying degrees of acceptance in this country and we are no longer content to read simple coming-out and coming-of-age stories. We want to read about the issues that are important to us now.

Without a doubt, one of those issues is relationships. What happens to couples that have long term relationships? How do they deal with each other when each knows everything about the other? Jesse and Adam have been together for twenty-four years, more than half of their lives. They have had their ups and downs and now they are wealthy. They are able to allow themselves to do what they want whether it is owning expensive automobiles or a country house.

Any of us who have been in long term relationships know what can happen if there is no freshness in the relationship and this is not true just for gay couples. It is so easy to argue about minor things. This is what this book is about.

The two men met as graduate students in New York City and have been together ever since. Now in their forties, passion seems to have left their relationship and the line between love and hate is blurred. It just takes a little spark to ignite a situation in which egos and hearts are bruised. Currier takes us into the middle of the situation where attraction becomes indifference and where what drew them together now forces them apart. Jesse and Adam are far from perfect as well as far from they were once. My first reaction was why would I want to read about something like this. However, as I read I found myself totally absorbed by the book and at the same time I found myself thinking of gay couples who are in similar situations. It is just so interesting to see that the qualities that once engendered love now do just the opposite and as the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt”. Somehow the concept of love has run its course and when a small incident during a flight escalates into a war, we see a relationship heading toward death. The descriptions of Jesse and Adam going through the aging process really hit home:

“Jesse’s hearing was stable but his cholesterol was too high…”, “Why did he forget the words to songs he had sung for years…’, “When Adam’s hair first went white…”. I identified with so much of what I read here but I also learned that a good attitude can turn things around.

This is one of those novels in which everything works but the surprise is that instead of being a downer as this novel could easily have become, it is not. Currier has the skill and the prose to raise it up and I certainly hope that this is a trend in LGBT literature. We must address the issues of aging and relationships. What I particularly liked here was the way the minor characters were raised to become important to the plot. I started to read this when it came today in the mail and I did not stop until I finished the book and then sat and stared ahead trying to figure out how I felt. I was unsuccessful in that and I think that is because the story was still fresh in my mind. Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently but the way I review is to write down my first words because those are the ones that are the way the book affected me. So this is my review tonight and maybe tomorrow or next week I will post something completely different but one thing for sure is that the praise for Jameson Currier will remain. I have not covered a great deal of the plot and that is deliberate. Some of it is very personal for me and I do not want to spoil it for anyone else.

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The Most Realistic Gay Sex Scenes In Film — Reader’s Picks [NSFW]

The Most Realistic Gay Sex Scenes In Film — Reader’s Picks [NSFW]

According to some of our intrepid readers we missed out on a whole slew of realistic gay sex scenes in movies. While the debate about if first time anal sex should hurt or not rages on (spoiler alert: it sometimes does, but doesn’t have to), we have a couple more movies for you based on your feedback.

Check out the new suggestions below, pulled directly from the amazing Queerty readers comments, and let us know if we missed any!

I Want Your Love

i-want-your-love

Writer-director Travis Mathews used the actors’ own names and much of their real-life stories for this 2012 film about a gay man in his mid-30s forced to move home from San Francisco. Porn studio Naked Sword helped in the production of the film, whose graphic sex scenes led to it being banned in Australia — much to James Franco’s chagrin.

Comment: “Any of the sex scenes. These are real actors having real sex on camera, and hotter than porn for that reason. You really see the connection between the actors, as well as oral sex, full penetration and even cum shots. As an example of actors really pushing their boundaries, this can’t be beaten.” — submitted by Greg Mitchell

Priest

A young Roman Catholic priest struggles with his homosexual urges in this 1994 British drama.

Comment: “The first sex scene between Linus Roache and Robert Carlyle” – submitted by Greg Mitchell

Total Eclipse

Total_Eclipse

The widely-maligned big screen adaptation of the legendary and tumultuous relationship between French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine featuring a young, pre-Rome + Juliet/Titanic Leonardo Dicaprio.

Comment: “Leonardo DiCaprio bumming David Thewlis” — submitted by JasonBrownUK

Behind the Candelabra

candelabra-sex

 

Much was made about how Behind the Candelabra wastoo gay” for any Hollywood studio, but just gay enough for us and HBO — along with near universal acclaim the Liberace biopic snatched 11 Emmys including one for Michael Douglas as the provocative, poppers-loving pianist.

Comment: “I found the sex scene in The Candelabra to be very realistic.” — submitted by bskeete

Weekend

weekend-2

An honest and unflinching portrait of an affair that promises to be much more, Andrew Haigh’s 2011 British romantic drama is equal parts sexy and heartbreaking.

Comment: “Had one of the most emotionally resonant sex scenes I think I’ve ever seen in a movie and probably one of the few to show that anal sex can be loving and not just pounding, not that there’s anything wrong with pounding.” — submitted by zaneymcbanes

Stranger by the Lake

stranger-by-the-lake

Pierre Deladonchamps stars as a young man who finds himself attracted to a man who might be a killer, played by Christophe Paou in Alain Guiraudie’s psychological thriller, which was among the films to scandalize Cannes with its “explicit scenes of gay sex.”

Comment: “Beautifully shot and well crafted story. The sex scenes are hot, complete with oral and cum shots” — submitted by Travis

Making Love

The first mainstream Hollywood drama to deal with being gay, being closeted and coming out.

Comment: “I still think the love scene in Making Love is the best gay sex scene ever. And Michael Ontkean & Harry Hamlin were superb and sexy as hell in it.” — submitted by hephaestion

Do Começo ao Fim (From Beginning to End)

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Aluizio Abranches’s 2009 Brazilian drama focuses on two brothers who become lovers.

Comment: “Has very good romantic scenes. Rather realistic for 2 straight Brazilian actors” — submitted by John Doe

Presque Rien (Come Undone)

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A 2000 French-Beligian romantic drama depicting a stormy holiday romance between two teens and what remains of that relationship eighteen months later.

Comment: “French film” — submitted by John Doe. Full film here.

Queer As Folk (U.S.)

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While not technically a movie, the popular US version of the UK drama revolving around the lives of a group of gay friends deserves an honorable mention.

Comment: “Justin and Brian’s first sex scene on Queer As Folk. It looked so f*ucking real and, Justin looked like he was in REAL pain when Brian penetrated him. I personally love that one.” — submitted by Dxley

“TELL NO ONE”— Telling the Truth

tell no one

“Tell No One” (“Come non ditto”)

Telling the Truth

Amos Lassen

Mattha (Josefat Vagni) is moving to Madrid to be with his boyfriend Eduard (Jose Dammert) and so he does not have to tell his family that he is gay. However Eduard thinks that their marriage has the blessing of Matthia’s family. So Eduard pulls a surprise and comes to Rome to meet his husband’s family before the move. Matthia faces a dilemma—either he can come clean to his family and admit that he has lied. The problem here is that these coming-out films have been done to death—the time has come to find new aspects of gay life (like “In Bloom”) to make movies about. This is a good movie but we have seen it all before.

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Nevertheless this is a humorous and sensitive look at family values. During the course of the film we meet Matthia’s family and friends. The movie is a story told in flashback and we understand how Matthia ended up in the situation he is in. He finally tells his family that he is gay by blurting it out in a very emotional and sensitive way. He was sure that everyone would be shocked and upset but he is actually the one who is shock because his family knew all along. It is interesting that we think we know our families and we also assume that they will not understand what we go through while the truth is that they do understand and they do know. The acting is the film is fine throughout and the cast is good looking. I do wish that we had known a bit more about Eduard’s and Matthia’s relationship but that is a minor point. It seems to me that the theme of the film is about relationships and that is what is important here.

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Ivan Silvestrini directed the film and contains all the elements to make this a fun romantic comedy. The love scenes are filled with passion. It’s interesting that this is an Italian film and comes from a country that is almost totally Catholic.

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“IN BLOOM”— Chicago, That Summer

 in bloom

“In Bloom”

Chicago, That Summer

Amos Lassen

One summer in Chicago two young men fell in love. Kurt (Kyle Wigent) is a tow headed, pot dealing guy who meets and falls for Paul (Tanner Rittenhouse), a cute but moody grocery store clerk. They begin a committed relationship as best friends, pals and lovers. They seem to get along beautifully and on the surface, their relationship is strong. But then rich kid Kevin (Adam Fane) comes into the picture with eyes for Kurt and things begin to go awry. Feelings of unsatisfied longing for what each doesn’t have comes out and their relationship is suddenly challenged. This is an honest look at a gay relationship and it has everything going for it—good acting, a sensible script, comedy, intelligence and honesty. Temptations and unease begin to pull the boys apart during that hot Chicago summer. The relationship becomes one of slow death, something that many of us have experienced.

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Now that we have entered a new period of gay acceptance in this country, the time has come to look at ourselves more realistically and our films should reflect this. We have many films about the struggle to be accepted, on dealing with disease and on coming out. These are very important issues but the time has come to look at other kinds of stories. It has been happening but slowly. Director Chris Michael Birkmeier does just that with “In Bloom”. Kurt and Paul are in love and the fact that they are gay is almost irrelevant. What we see here is what happens when two people fall in love but then realize that there are other things that are important to them. Paul is dissatisfied with his life and his job at a convenience store and he thinks about moving to Paris while Kurt is content with the way things are. Kurt surprises us when he begins to flirt with one of his “clients”, Kevin.

Now there is another plot element that comes into play—a serial murderer is on the loose in Boystown where many gay men live. It is, as if this murderer is a metaphor for death like and the end of the relationship.

Our two main characters are portrayed by excellent young actors who are good-looking but they are not the beautiful men with the gorgeous bodies that we often see in gay film. These two actors really know how to portray the beginning and the end of a relationship. The director lets the relationship play out before our eyes and the wonderful thing is that it does not look staged. This is certainly not a film that will make you feel good but it is important to see a film about the relationship that does not last.

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When that summer began, the boys are having fun and really seem to be into each other. We see them as something of the perfect couple. It comes as a surprise that within the next seven months, it will all be over and they will hardly even speak to each other. I understand that the young director based this on his own story when his relationship with his first boyfriend ended. Here he gives us a penetrating look at gay life. When Paul asks himself, “What did I do wrong” our hearts break along with his. Paul and Kurt just happen to be two people who fell in love but then faced the reality of life.

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Underwear Innovator Jack Adams™ Announces New Core Collection

Underwear Innovator Jack Adams™ Announces New Core Collection

The fast-growing company strips down to basics with a new line of men’s underwear.

VAN NUYS, Calif. (October 28, 2013) – Jack Adams Group today revealed their new Core Collection of men’s underwear basics. Designed to provide affordable everyday comfort, the line serves as a key focal point of the Jack Adams™ Fall & Winter 2013 Collection.

Men that seek fashionable yet functional underwear will be able to choose from the Core Boxer Brief, Core Cycle Trunk, or Core Long John in four distinct yet masculine colors (grey, black, red, and orange). All three feature body-conscious cuts and a cotton-polyester blend for a lightweight fabric that is soft to the touch.

The Core Collection also features the cozy contour pouch with fly that Jack Adams™ is known for, while the versatility of the line allows for year-round comfort for both the casual male and the active man. 

“Men want comfort and a good fit in all of the right places,” said Ron Miller, owner of Jack Adams Group. “The Core Collection is great for basic daily wear or under your gym shorts or ski pants.”

Miller always knew that the hot new designs would need a model just as sexy and self-assured as the Jack Adams™ brand. The company tapped fitness trainer and reality star Jesse Jordan (Bravo’s Work Out) to serve as the face – and body – of the Fall & Winter 2013 Collection.

Jack Adam™ Core Collection will be available online at jackadamsUSA.com and in select stores starting this month.

About Jack Adams Group:
A subdivision of 360 West Media Distribution, Jack Adams Group began in 2010 and quickly built a reputation for commitment to quality underwear and active wear. Known for creating the first jock strap with a fly, the company’s innovative and seductive designs have continued to raise the bar.  The combination of style and practicality has turned Jack Adams™ into a favorite among underwear fans.

Jack Adams Group has also surged ahead by building strong customer relationships and even implementing customer feedback in its designs. The trendsetting company is always on the lookout for qualified fitness trainers, instructors and athletes to join the Jack Adams™ Team Research and Development program. Customers are invited to learn more about that and other exciting opportunities on the recently launched website jackadamsUSA.com.

Contact:
Jack Adams Group
15019 Califa Street
Van Nuys, CA 91411
(888) 910-7372 Toll-Free
(818) 778-0802 International

wholesale@jackadamsUSA.com
www.wholesalejackadamsUSA.com – Wholesale Clients
www.jackadamsUSA.com – Retail

Social: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jackadamsUSA

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackadamsUSA

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jackadamsUSA

Tumblr: http://jackadamsusa.tumblr.com

PHOTO CREDITS: © David Wagner 

“The Stray Bullet: William S. Burroughs in Mexico” by Jorge Garcia-Robles, translated by Daniel C. Schechter— South of the Border

the stray bullet

Garcia-Robles, Jorge. “The Stray Bullet: William S. Burroughs in Mexico”, translated by Daniel C. Schechter, University Of Minnesota Press, 2013.

South of the Border

Amos Lassen

In 1949 William S. Burroughs snuck out of New Orleans where he was to be tried on drugs and weapons charges. If he would have been found guilty, he probably would have received a lengthy prison sentence. When he left America, Burroughs left behind several failed business ventures including one about growing Marijuana in Texas and selling it in New York. He already had quite a criminal record of drug arrests. He stayed in Mexico for three years and during that time, he reached the defining moment of his life when he shot his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer and then played a game called William Tell with a loaded pistol. After he ran from Mexico, he was tried and convicted in absentia.

This book was first published in Mexico in 1995 and it is a wonderful read. We see here Burroughs’s formative experiences, his fascination with the county, his friends there and his own contradictory attitudes toward Mexico and its culture. It was in Mexico that he began his “fatal vocation as a writer.” I can only imagine how much research went into the writing of this book and we get a look at Burroughs’ life in Mexico which has always been overshadowed by Vollmer’s death.

We get a wonderful recreation of the Roma neighborhood where Burroughs lived with Jean and his children. We read about Mexico after the war and the members of the drug trade there. I see here that the shooting of Joan was considered accidental and I also had the chance to read about Burroughs’s relationship to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The approach the author takes here is to show how “the stray bullet” that killed Vollmer influenced Burroughs’s writing. He says that Vollmer wanted to die but we do not really read much about her.

Garcia-Robles came from Mexico in 1990 and went to Lawrence, Kansas to interview Burroughs and what we read here comes out of those interviews. In fact, Burroughs himself contributed his description of his lawyer, Bernabe Jurado, to this book and also turned over several unpublished letters.

García-Robles first gives us an overview of Burroughs and we are introduced to those who were later to become the members of the Beat Generation and their relationships with each other. He tells us that Burroughs’ exile would be life-changing, ending with his wife’s accidental death in a tragic game of “William Tell.” It’s an event which is described here in detail, along with its aftermath. The book is written with emotion and opinion and it is like a big screen film—in full color and larger than life.

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“The Leonard Bernstein Letters” edited by Simeone Nigel— A Intimate Look at Bernstein

leonard bernstein letters

Simeone, Nigel (editor). “The Leonard Bernstein Letters”, Yale University Press, 2013.

A Intimate Look at Bernstein

Amos Lassen

Aaron Copeland, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are just some of the recipients of letters from Leonard Bernstein.

We all knew Bernstein as an American genius, one of the great orchestra conductors of the 20th century, a fantastic composer of hit musicals and symphonies and ballets. He was also a teacher and a personality. These titles are about the public Bernstein. His letters show us the private side of his life.

Bernstein has been gone for over 20 years yet his name lives on. Now we get a look at 650 of his letters that shows us other aspects of the man we all knew as public personality. We learn here that about one-third of his letters were correspondence with members of his family and these were sealed until late 2010 and are now in the Library of Congress in Bernstein’s archives. Then are the others letters and those written to him and what we see in them is a man who was conflicted and who worked hard to balance his roles as a conductor and composer and as a devoted father to three children who also enjoyed sex with men. We also read that he was being followed by the FBI even while he was an international celebrity. What surprisingly comes out of the letters is that Bernstein was a man who suffered from self-doubt and was filled with contradictions.

I felt like I was peeking into his life as I read the letters. In one letter dated 1949 du from Arthur Laurents we learn that Bernstein threatened to pull out of the project that eventually became “West Side Story” but we do not see the reasons for this. Laurents does state that there were hostilities between Bernstein and himself. If there was a response from Bernstein, it is not among the letters here. We do see that he recommitted to the show in 1955 due to the urging of Jerome Robbins. In other letters we see how he worked with Robbins.

There is here a proposal for an opera about the life of Eva Peron in a letter from Marc Blitzstein. There is also a proposal for a collaboration with Ingmar Bergman on Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” that did not come to be.

Other letters tell about “Bernstein’s efforts to commission works from fellow composers, to encourage Stravinsky to come and conduct the orchestra, and arrange events like Aaron Copland’s 60th birthday concert. A regular visitor to the White House during the Kennedy years, he later exchanged several letters with Jacqueline Kennedy after organizing music for Robert Kennedy’s funeral”.

We get a look at Bernstein’s political life. There was the time that he had a great deal of trouble when he tried to renew his passport; this was probably due to the fact that he was being closely watched by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Editor Simeone includes a sworn affidavit from Aug. 3, 1953 to the State Department that served as a kind of “loyalty oath,” providing exhaustive details of all of the organizations of which he had been a member. Bernstein wrote to his brother Burton, and to composer David Diamond, about the humiliation of the episode.

Bernstein had a very complex love life. Through his letters in the 1930s and 40s we see his relationships with some of his colleagues—Aaron Copland, David Diamond and clarinetist David Oppenheim. We read of his romance with actress Felicia Montealegre and see that it took some time for marriage plans to develop because Montealegre wanted an acting career and was clearly torn about being Bernstein’s wife. She wrote to him, “You are a homosexual and may never change,” but then in 1952 she wrote, “I am willing to accept you as you are, without being a martyr or sacrificing myself on the L.B. altar.” Felicia was well aware of her husband’s dalliances with men and both she and Bernstein saw their marriage as an experiment and while Bernstein liked being married to her, he seems not to have an idea about what was involved in being married.

“Some letters are serious; some are silly. There are mash notes from Bette Davis and word games with Stephen Sondheim. Simeone says these letters, with family, friends, lovers and colleagues, reveal a private Bernstein”. We see the maestro as confused and insecure and whatever and all the things that we all are. Simeone says that he finds that “actually, rather endearing.” There are several letters between Bernstein and Aaron Copeland. They first met when Bernstein was a sophomore at Harvard and it was that relationship that caused Bernstein to be a major Copeland cheerleader. Have a look at this:

“What terrifying letters you write: fit for the flames is what they are. Just imagine how much you would have to pay to retrieve such a letter forty years from now when you are conductor of the Philharmonic.” In 1957, Bernstein became the aforementioned director.

Another interesting conflict was when Bernstein questioned putting his energies into conducting or composing. Here is what he wrote to his college roommate, “You may remember my chief weakness — my love for people. I need them all the time — every moment. It’s something that perhaps you cannot understand: but I cannot spend one day alone without becoming utterly depressed.” Composing was lonely.

There are some other little tidbits here. Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, relates this, “I think Steve Sondheim was the one who said there were only two things that my father was afraid of, and they were God and Jerome Robbins,” she says. “And that was the joke. But it was kind of true.” There are several letters between the two and according to Jamie Bernstein,  “I think Robbins was one of the very, very few people who could really make Bernstein do what he thought he should be doing and really just insist on bringing out the best of him,” says Simeone. “There’s a kind of fierce work ethic there, as well as just plain fierceness, sometimes.”

There are some tender letters between Bernstein and his wife, Felicia. He was a devoted husband and father. In one of the letters, she acknowledges her husband’s sexuality, “You are a homosexual and may never change — you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depend on a certain sexual pattern what can you do?”

 Bernstein’s letters tell much about this complex man and his collaborators, mentors, and others that were close to him. Most of these letters have never been published before. Simeone has chosen those that demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein’s musical interests, his struggle to find the time to compose, his “turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work”. It is just fascinating to meet the guy behind the legend that he created for and about himself.

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“OUT THERE”— A New Documentary from Stephen Fry and the BBC

out there

“Out There”

A New Documentary from Stephen Fry and the BBC

Amos Lassen

Stephen Fry has partnered with the BBC and the Open University to present “Out There”, a two part documentary about the oppression of gay people all over the world. Fry wrote and presents the film. Fry has great wit so quite naturally, we were prepared to be entertained but then again, what kind of entertainment can come from oppression of an abused minority?

Unfortunately the film lost its way. It is incoherent and I am not sure where Fry was going with this film. We see reports from America, Uganda, Brazil, Russia and India but obviously not included were Saudi Arabia and Iran, two places where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. We hear that Iran turned down a request to film there so Fry decided to focus on the lesser repressive regimes that were willing to discuss the plight of gays.

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Fry argues with a Uganda pastor who had somehow convinced himself that the gay penis is terrorizing the straight world. Then there is a competition between a Brazilian evangelical politician and a Russian Orthodox politician on whose prejudice “was the most ill informed”. Having heard and seen Fry speak several times, I was sure that he could have challenged these men and erase them but instead he loses his temper and becomes part of a shouting match. This soon became somewhat farcical and it seemed to be that he wanted us to see him angry instead of exposing the ignorance of these two men. He tried to inject ideas like homosexuals don’t want to spread homosexuality, but homophobes do want to spread homophobia. However, he contented himself with expressions of outrage and contempt that never came to grips with the source of the phobia in homophobia, its cultural or historical context. The result was that we see a bunch of foreigners behaving in offensively. Did he forget that in Uganda gays are being murdered every day?

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It is upsetting because this could have been a very important film and instead it is a wasted opportunity. The press release said this:

“Contemplating his own experience as a gay man in the spotlight, Stephen sets out to explore what lies beneath people’s prejudices and why some people feel so threatened by homosexuality.

  • Stephen travels to Brazil, Russia, Uganda, India and the US to see what the state of homophobia is really like
  • As well as meeting with public figures who vehemently oppose gay rights, Stephen also hears from the gay men, women and transgender people trying to live their lives in the face of such opposition

In a specially filmed interview for the BBC Media Centre, Stephen reflects on his experience meeting the outspoken public figures who support legislation preventing the advancement of gay rights. Stephen also reveals why he wanted to make a series about being out and gay around the world – and who he hopes the series will reach out to”. However we do not see or hear much of this. This was meant to be, according to director/producer Fergus O’Brien, a film about human rights but it came across as not much of anything.

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