Monthly Archives: April 2014

“Looking After Joey” by David Pratt— Love, Laughter, Family of Choice and Fabulousness!

looking after Joey

Pratt, David. “Looking After Joey”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

Love, Laughter, Family of Choice and Fabulousness!

Amos Lassen

I used to detest the word fairy when it was used to separate us from the mainstream but now I have to renege a bit on the word since David Pratt gives us a fairy tale in his new novel, “Looking After Joey”. Calvin and Peachy are friends and they live in Chelsea, New York City. Because they are “older”, they tend to spend time remembering what it was like being young. The gay community is ageist to say the least and it is not easy fitting in when you become one of the guys you used to say no to. For some young men being old comes at 30 and those who are 40 and up move from the discos to the wrinkle rooms.

At 40 years old, Calvin, a CPA is really feeling his age.  Peachy is a bit younger and he really does not say much about how he feels. Yet the two are best friends and have been for many years; they compliment and look out for each other. Now Calvin finds himself in a porn movie starring Rodd Packer who tempted him and he meets Joey Rhodes on the set. Joey just happens to be the man that Calvin lusts after and who comes into Calvin’s life by escaping through the TV. Calvin and Peachy see Joey’s visit from the TV be to be a chance for them to repair some old issues and a prelude to social climbing. Calvin wants to use Joey as a way to get back at Fred for a grudge that has lasted for fifteen years and Peachy sees Joey as a key to social advancement and then he and Calvin will be considered A-listers. Calvin sees Joey as a way to get at Fred who has a new young boyfriend named Jeffrey that he plans to introduce to the world on Labor Day at Fire Island. Jeffrey is a mystery man that no one knows anything about. It is up to Peachy to see that he and Calvin will be at Jeffrey’s unveiling.

Peachy gets busy locating all those who “owe him” and at the same time, Calvin has assumed the role of Joey’s tutor and teaches him to live in the real world. I could not help be reminded of “Pygmalion” as we read how Joey is transformed from being obsessed by porn to becoming a real person in this “The Purple Rose of Cairo” meets “My Fair Lady” meets gay porn. Joey listens to what Calvin and even Peaches have to say. Peaches teaches Joey the art of being fabulous and schools him musically, literarily and about all he needs to know. It is not easy teaching about fabulousness to someone who has no idea who Garland and Minnelli are. Joey is to make his grand arrival at a party hosted by Bunce van den Troell and time is of the essence.

I love what writer Pratt has done with the characters and I can only imagine how much fun he had creating these:

Doug—he loves Jesus and plaid probably equally and he also loves Joey. He works for a non-profit.

Desmond Norma— a somewhat bitter theatrical investor who loves young boys.

Stuart Bergman – a somewhat foul-mouthed publisher who says what he thinks when he thinks it without regard for anyone else.

Rounding out the characters are Fred, Bunce, Jeffrey, Jake Trouser and Eagle, a political activist and former porn star.
I was reminded of when I was in high school and everyone wanted to be on the A list only to discover when we got there that was an A plus list.  Of course nothing here seems to go as planned and we soon find ourselves laughing aloud. David Pratt pokes fun at cheese and lube and love and porn but then we realize that there is a message here— and that is that life is just not always fair and that aging is filled with fear (as most of us already know). Pratt also has something to say about religion but it is what we all know but may not care to admit—it works for some and some of those people are good and vice versa (I haven’t used that in years). We must not exclude those we do not know because no one really knows what is on the inside. Beauty is dependent on opinion and we do not have the right to choose for others.

I have been a fan of David Pratt since his first book, “Bob the Book” and I told him that he would win the Lammie and he did. I am not making any such prediction this early but I will say that he has written another winner. The satire works wonderfully, the plot is engaging and the characters are delightful (that is important because this is a character driven novel). Sure, some of it is over the top but hyperbole is wonderful for making a point and Pratt makes his point while we are laughing with his story (notice “with” and not “at”). All of us suffer from some kind of feeling of inferiority but we learn to either live with it or sublimate it. We are also guilty of prejudging both others and ourselves and Pratt shows the danger in that. Sometimes we can learn a lot from a good laugh and that is the main reason I like this book so much. Pratt is a wordsmith and he knows just what to say—don’t take my word for it, meet Joey and find out for yourselves.

“Against Marriage” by Bruce Benderson—Gay Marriage— Legally and Symbolically

against marriage

Benderson, Bruce. “Against Marriage”, Semiotexte, 2014.

Gay Marriage— Legally and Symbolically

Amos Lassen

Bruce Benderson is an intellectual who is known for his remembrances of the sexuality of Times Square in the 70s and 80s. His new work is more of a pamphlet than a book, coming in at just 60 pages. In it he asks why would gays have struggled so hard for the right to marry did not think that it would legitimize who they are? He says that it is strange that instead opposing the idea of marriage, the gay community is fighting to be accepted by it. Benderson says that the focus on a conservative institution connected to nuclear family values is something has never respected the separation of church and state. The same rights, he maintains can be ensured in other ways and marriage is about family values in the most conservative way.

What he presents is much more aligned to the historical or philosophical trajectory of marriage. The book is not against gay marriage— it is against marriage as a legitimate legal institution. It is an empty institution that cannot be defined without looking at the assumptions of what others want it to be. Up until the modern era, marriage was only used to form treaties, to consolidate money or property. “It had nothing to do with love, very little to do with the nuclear family. It was just used for very non-romantic practical purposes. It has only a 150-year history of being associated with love or romance. And that’s already mostly over thus making an absolutely meaningless institution. “Wanting it is almost as repulsive as gays fighting to join the military, as opposed to gays fighting to end the military. What’s happening to people”?

Benderson explains that he saw a picture in the New York Times of a very old lesbian couple who could not get married in the state where they lived, and they were talking about how cruel it was and were angry that people who had such a long-term relationship were not going to be able to get that certificate. Benderson thought to himself, “You mean you think your relationship is incomplete unless the whole world applauds you? Does that make your relationship more meaningful? What do you want from this certificate? I mean, these ladies had lived through the most oppressive of times. Now they wanted to be accepted and patted on the head by the people who had probably made them miserable for 60 years of their life? “What is the matter with you?” I thought; and I began to get furious”.

He also thought back to his own youth and remembered how unmarried people were treated then. They had names––spinsters, old maids, mama’s boys, Peter Pans–and they were all insulting. What happened to these unmarried people? Obviously some of them just lived unhappy half lives as appendages of the nuclear family. There were others, “who were a little feistier–quite often because they had a different sexuality–came to the city, where you could be single without judgment. And the more talented among them created urban culture”. Then Benderson thought, “Oh my god! What’s going to happen to gays who are not married when suddenly gays can get married? Well, they’re going to be doubly excluded. They’re going to be the new old maids and pitiful bachelors of the new century. Maybe they’re even gonna have their gay brothers and sisters joining in mocking and excluding them. And this sickened me”. He began to examine marriage in other cultures and came to the conclusion that “the only time marriage is a vital institution is when it occurs within a culture that allows rule-breaking-off-the-books, untalked-about behavior. Indiscretions”.

He goes on to say that marriage is merely a symbolic goal, because it symbolizes social acceptance, but that it has no authentic meaning aside from that.

The “book” is a part of a set of 28 new mini-books, pamphlets from Semiotext(e). 

“blush: the unbelievably absurd diary of a gay beauty junkie” by Harvey Helms— A “Traumedy”

blush

Helms, Harvey. “blush: the unbelievably absurd diary of a gay beauty junkie”, CreateSpace, 2012.

A “Traumedy”

Amos Lassen

This is taken from the diary of Harvey Helms, a gay beauty junkie. Helms by accident, became of the first male beauty advisors at a department store beauty counter in the South. Today we do not bat an eye at that but Harvey started when no one else did (or would) and he tells us all about it in his chapter, “I‘m the Revlon Girl”. But, the book is so much more than that—it is all about growing up gay in the South

“in an intolerant world and being authentically yourself against all odds” in a dysfunctional family (and no, not all Southern families are dysfunctional although mine certainly was).

Some of the people we read about here are Tammy Faye Baker, Senator Jesse Helms, plus many other gay men. We also read about bullying and cosmetics. Here is the private world of a young gay male in an industry for women and one of the most fun reads that I have had in a long time.

This is also get an inside look at the cosmetics industry and the Southern family.

“The Mentor: A Memoir of Friendship and Gay Identity” by Jay Quinn— Growing Up Gay in the South

mentor

 Jay Quinn. “The Mentor: A Memoir of Friendship and Gay Identity”, Routledge, 2014.

Growing up Gay in the South

Amos Lassen

“The Mentor” is captivating and honest look into the challenges of growing up gay through the context of firsthand experiences, revelations, and realizations. This unique book is an intelligent and personal narrative that considers the social, religious, and emotional aspects of what it is like to grow up as a gay male in the south. It examines the enormous social changes regarding homosexuality that have taken place in America during the last half of the century.

The Mentor was written to show the importance of the author’s mentor in helping him form his self-identity and educating him about being gay and challenges the stereotypical idea that, unlike heterosexuals, gay men are not able to form nurturing, fulfilling bonds between themselves. This is a story about one’s acceptance and understanding of who he is and with the help of other men who have faced the same situations.

 One can find courage, strength, and the idea of the support of a mentor to help guide gay men through the trials that many young gay experience:

  • recognizing the possibilities of exploitation by older gay men due to a lack of emotional and social experience
  • creating a loyal relationship with a man that does not include sex but which satisfies emotional needs that many gay men need and long for
  • discovering the importance of a mentor to gay youths, since there are few homosexual role models to learn from

 What makes this book so outstanding is the sincerity with which it was written. We gain insight into everything from the author’s experience with intolerance of homosexuality by certain religions to struggles with fidelity and infidelity, illustrating the difficult yet universal challenges of life relationships. Here are suggestions that will help you recognize that your feelings of desire and love and your quest for human connection as a gay man are not the distorted reflections of a heterosexual image, but a healthy gay identity. We get advice on how to make the shift from confusion to full acceptance of your gay identity and the total understanding that no one is alone, and perhaps be encouraged to pass on the legacy of a mentor to other young gay men.

 It is clear after the first few chapters that the book is more about Quinn and his gay identity than his friendship with mentor Joe Riddick and we see detailed parallels between himself and Riddick, both “recovering Baptists” with complementary Southern family backgrounds, but there is little mentoring. Instead, Quinn treads the well-worn path of gay autobiography and fiction, featuring life in the hedonistic 1970s and 1980s, as he chronicles his experiences with licit and illicit drugs, his attempts at an artistic career, his manic-depressive episodes, and, above all, his sexual exploits. While Riddick never emerges as a flesh-and-blood personality, Quinn does, and an unappealing one at that.

“Jay Quinn’s exploration of the mentoring process within the gay community -of being taken under a wing, of being taught by the more mature, of learning from someone trusted -shines with honest grace. He’s taken the very personal and amplified it into an exemplar for a community that has a lengthy, noble tradition of the older guiding the younger; but it’s a tradition not much honored in our writing or in our public lives.

 The process of acknowledging and accepting one’s gay identity has never been easy-at any time, in any place-but it is frequently more difficult in the South, with its entrenched conservative familial, religious, and social strictures. “The Mentor” traces the path of one man, part-time surfer, part-time construction worker, full-time Southerner, as he recognizes, embraces, and ultimately balances the imperatives of his burgeoning gay identity with the values and demands of his Baptist upbringing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s a difficult journey, marked by false starts, dead ends, and disappointments, but ultimately illuminated by the joy of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

In case some of you have not noticed, this is one of the Harrington Park Books that Routledge is reissuing.

i

“The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay in the Southern Baptist Church” by Michael Fields— Personal and Spiritual Recovery

thousand

Fields, Michael. “The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay in the Southern Baptist Church”, Langdon Street Press, 2014.

Personal and Spiritual Recovery
Amos Lassen

Michael Fields grew up in a strict Southern Baptist community in Nashville, Tennessee where his sexuality was considered to be a sin. Yet he can laugh at that and he invites us to laugh with him as we relive his childhood, meet some unforgettable characters and to join him in thought as he remembers his anguished prayers and his sexual awakening. He uses the Hindu symbol of the lotus with petals that unfold just as Fields story unfolds and blooms when he finds his “kingdom of heaven”. This is a personal and spiritual story as he discovers who he is amid metaphysical reflections and quite a wit.

Being from the South, I know what southern charm is and Fields oozes it. He also does something my mother taught me and that is if we cannot laugh at life than we really have no reason to live. If someone were to ask me what the gay community needs more than anything else, I would probably give a smart-ass answer and say spirituality. For some reason (or for good reason), many gays leave their religion when they come out and instead of finding some alternate kind of spirituality, they go on their way without it.

Fields gives us what he calls a memoir of contradictions “—of the joys and anguishes of growing up with body, mind and soul — which is to say human in all of the odd and lovely specificity that is Michael Fields.”

“As You Are” by Ethan Day— In Love with the Roommate

as you are

Day, Ethan. “As You Are”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

In Love With the Roommate

Amos Lassen

All Julian Hallowell has been able to think about for the last year has been Danny Wallace, his roommate. He knows that he is in love with him and it seems to be all he can think about. Danny actually owns a used textbook store and Julian, a bartender, has tried to get Danny to fall for him but it has not worked and Danny just says Julian as a roommate. When Andy Baker, a new guy, comes to town and asks him out, Danny is ready to go. Julian does not regard this lightly and has a plan to rid himself of thoughts of Danny and he is determined to find someone and perhaps Andy is the one. (Now tell me you have read this story before — we all have but this one is special.

We learn that Julian is the more serious of the two—Danny, seems to enjoy sex with no commitment and one-nighters suit him fine while Julian is looking for love. When I first started reading this, I had no idea that it was going to be a comic novel but even with some of the angst this is very funny read.

For me, Danny was quite easy to figure out but Julian who, at first, comes across as a buffoon is actually endearing and we root for him. The fact that Danny doesn’t see Julian for who he is provides some of the humor. Julian is young and not so innocent but he seems to know what he wants and when he doesn’t get that, he moves on to greener pastures. Julian is aware of his faults but lives with them. He is 30 years old  and he should be sure of who he is. He is on his fourth go at collage and his bartending is footing the bill for his education. Yet he still depends on his parents for help. He spends a lot of time with Gabby, his best friend and he also spends time thinking about the man he wants to settle down with. His problem is that the object of his affection is Danny who is with a different guy every night. Julian thinks that one day Danny will realize that the man that he lives with is in love with him but it did not happen. Julian reacts in a very childish way and goes after the guy that Danny had been out with. However there is a problem with Andy—not only is he a Republican but he is religious and Julian has a hard time with that.

 There is a problem: he is in love with Danny. And Danny is a man-heater that brings back a different boy every night. At first Julian dreamed that sooner or later Danny will awake one day to the realization that he was in love with Julian, but when that day never came, Julian behaved like a child to whom was refused a toy he wanted… the toy is not so good after all. And so now Julian wants to show to Danny that he can have a good man by his side, and the good man has to be Andy… but even if Andy kisses as a pro, and is handsome and with a wonderful job, he is also Republicans and very religious, two things that Julian is unable to move over on.

Danny likes the way he lives and is perfectly happy sleeping around and not becoming involved. Now I know some of you are waiting for me to tell you how it all ended but I have no intention of doing so. If you have read anything else that Ethan Day has written you know that he is a good writer who can tell a good story. If you have not yet read him, now is the time to start.

 

 

 

“The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” edited by Ellen McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen— Coming in November, 2014.

cambridge

McCallum, Ellen and Mikko Tuhkanen (editors). “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature”, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Coming in November 2014.

Amos Lassen

One of the books I am really looking forward to is “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” and the main reason that it is coming for Cambridge which is know for its high quality publications. I understand that the volume gives us a “global history of gay and lesbian literature that covers a wide range of topics, from Sappho and the Greeks to contemporary science fiction and fantasy” to queer modernism, diasporic literatures, and responses to the AIDS crisis. The volume is grounded in current scholarship and this history provides new critical approaches to gay and lesbian literature that will serve the needs of students and specialists alike.

Written by leading scholars in the field, “The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature” is going to be one of, if not, the definitive reference for gay and lesbian literature for years to come.

“YOU AND THE NIGHT—- A FILM BY YANN GONZALEZ

presents

YOU AND THE NIGHT

A FILM BY YANN GONZALEZ

Starring Kate Moran & Niels Schneider

Special Screening with Director Yann Gonzalez
& M83’s Anthony Gonzalez In Person!

Wednesday, April 30 at 7:30pm
Aero Theatre
1328 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Note: Screening is open to the public and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis
View Trailer
In the debut feature from Director Yann Gonzalez, young couple Ali (Kate Moran) and Mathias (Niels Schneider) invite a dream team to their place for an orgy – the Stud, the Star, the Slut and the Teen – and the partygoers end up baring their souls as well as their bodies. Leavened with campy humor and a wonderful electronic score by M83, this audacious film is a surprisingly affecting meditation on much more than sex. “Deliriously theatrical, flagrantly cinephilic, unabashedly provocative, Yann Gonzalez’s YOU AND THE NIGHT is the kind of movie that restores your faith in auteur filmmaking.” – Robert Koehler, Film Comment
98 Minutes • Drama • Not Rated • In French with English Subtitles

“GAMING IN COLOR”— The Queer Gaming Community

gaming in color 

“Gaming In Color”

The Queer Gaming Community

Amos Lassen

“Gaming in Color” is a new documentary that explores the queer gaming community, ‘gaymer’ culture and events, and the rise of LGBTQ themes in video games. An interesting fact is that “a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer gamer has a higher chance of being mistreated in an online social game”.  While diverse queer themes in storylines and characters are still mostly rarities in the mainstream video game industry, we see here how the community culture is shifting and the industry is diversifying thereby helping with queer visibility and acceptance of an LGBTQ presence.

Gaming_In_Color1

“’Gaming in Color’ exists for anyone who believes that the pixelated world can be a better place for everyone, no matter who they are”.  We are aware that bullied and abused youth look for comfort in a world that is not real; in a video game, and find that their one hope of sanctuary, their escape into a virtual universe, is filled with hatred.

“A lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer gamer has a higher chance of being mistreated in a social game. The power dynamic of a geek society tips against them. Diversive queer themes in storylines and characters are still mostly an anomaly in the mainstream video game industry. However, the gaming community is far more colorful than one may expect. ‘Gaming In Color’ shows that there is a full spectrum of gamers picking up their controller to play”.

The film looks at the queer aspect of gaming culture and the LGBT presence there. There is even a convention—GaymerX (2013) and it was a step forward for our community. Just about that time, “more popular mainstream and indie games featured a greater amount of gay and lesbian characters than ever before, helping with visibility and acceptance”. The video games universe will only continue to improve and diversify both in its community and industry but we must “elevate the conversation about inclusion and respecting one another – not in spite of our gay ‘geekiness’, but because of it”!

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50,000, the LGBT video game culture documentary “Gaming in Color” has just been released. “It focuses on gaming in American society as a whole, the few LGBT characters in narratives currently seen in video games, and the growth of the queer geek community over the past few years”.

“The film includes interviews with a variety of industry professionals, academics, and fans, including Riot Games’ George Skleres and Colleen Macklin, a professor at Parsons the New School for Design”.

“In a statement to the press, director Philip Jones said that “through the voices and experiences of our hardworking and talented cast, [Gaming in Color] shows what a strong and passionate movement that diversity and acceptance in video games has become. It really is an inspiring call to action.”

Copies of the film are available on the film’s website via instant streaming and HD downloads on a “pay what you want” basis.