“JESUS”— Changing

“Jesús”

Changing

Amos Lassen

Even though his widowed father’s (Alejandro Goic) pleads with him to straighten up and go back to school, Jesus (Nicolas Duran) is satisfied with running around town all day with his friends. Then a night of drunken revelry leads him and his friends to commit a despicable crime. With the police after them, Jesus’ friendships fall away leaving his father as his only ally. Director Fernando Guzzoni’s challenging depiction of youth gone astray is quite graphic and unsettling. It’s difficult to sympathize with any of the teenagers in this film but it is especially hard to watch an only child constantly disappoint his father.

Even with several very disquieting factors, Chilean filmmaker Fernando Guzzoni’s story about a dysfunctional father/son relationship, is compelling.   For most of the week 18-year-old Jesús is left alone to his own devices in Santiago whilst his father (Alejandro Goic ) is away working. Instead of going to school or even getting a job he chooses to waste his time away hanging out with his friends. He lies to his father when he returns home and is always finding ways to try to get more money out of him.

Jesús and his pals spend all their time getting wasted on anything they can get their hands on, and randomly pick up girls to have sex. On one of their very many drunken nights out they stumble upon a half conscious gay man in the park who they mock and taunt before they beat him to the point that they think that he is dead.

The next morning when Jesús awakes sober, he sees on the TV news that the boy they attacked is in critical condition in the ICU department at the Hospital. He panics and turns to his best friend Pizaro (Sebastián Ayala), who had also been one of the assailants and they comfort each other by having sex together. (You might want to read that sentence a second time.)

Over the next few days, the victim’s condition worsens and they are large public vigils in the park where the attack had taken place,  Jesús becomes even more worked up, especially after Pizaro tells him that he was thinking going to the police to blame the others. Beto the gang leader comes to his house and threatens him. Jesús is now so scared that when his father comes home he tells him the truth and throws himself on his mercy as he now realizes that he needs help to get himself out of the worsening situation.

The end of this coming-of-age drama/thriller is equally disturbing, and although it comes as something of a shock, on reflection it was the only way that this story could have ended.  While the actions of Jesús, and his pals are not those of a neo-Nazi group of thugs like the Police had assumed, but because of their callous disregard for other people’s lives, we feel intense hatred. 

Guzzoni successfully builds up the tension of the whole piece by deliberately using sparse lighting for many of the scenes, and using some shaky hand-held camera work.  Durán gives an extremely convincing performance as the self-centered and confused Jesús.

This is a harrowing and despicable story that is so powerfully told that we stay engaged to the very last frame. There are ultimately few surprises to found within the film and the atmosphere grows more and more problematic as time slowly progresses. Any hope of feeling sympathy falls flat. The pervasively minimalist vibe holds the viewer at arms length throughout and ultimately dulls the impact of the central character’s increasingly grim life. The film focuses on the question of ‘sin’ and guilt from the point of view of youth and the present. empathy from the viewer.  The film tells its tale in two parts—the screenplay gives meticulous details of the everyday reality of the protagonist, Jesús who lives alone with his father who is seldom home and with whom communication is minimal and mutual incomprehension is very high. Jesus is secretly bisexual and very impressionable. Jesús seems most invested in a group of friends who border on delinquency and spend their evenings doing nothing good. Then comes the event that turns the film into a father/son confrontation. Jesús has to face the consequences of his actions (the burden of guilt, threats from his partners in crime) and his father has to decide how far he’s willing to go to protect his son.

The film is striking in its realism and this is, of course, due to the wonderful realism provided  by photographer  Barbara Alvarez. She plays with the shadows of night and gives the director the perfect conditions for bringing in his style that is filled with menacing atmospheres and a brutal look at society in Chile. We watch the downward spiral that takes Jesús to his catharsis of decision.

“AS GOOD AS YOU”— Dealing with Grief

“As Good As You”

Dealing with Grief

Amos Lassen

After having nursed her wife for a year and a half, Jo (Laura Heisler) faced dealing with the death of the person she loved most in the world. Jo is a published author who is also dealing with writer’s block and has been thinking having the baby that she and her late wife never got to having.  At forty-one-years-old, she is very aware that her biological clock is ticking away, and so has been pressuring Jamie (Bryan Dechart) her much younger brother-in-law to keep to the promise she managed to get him to make at her wife’s memorial of being the sperm donor.

Jo’s life seems to center around just two close friends. Lisa (Anna Fitzwater) an aspiring photographer and punk who owns a seedy bar no one, aside from Nate (Raoul Bhaneja) seems to go. Nate drinks his life away there.  Both Lisa and Nate are in love with Jo and compete for her affection,  However, Jo very carefully avoids this until one day Lisa turns up at her house with a bottle of bourbon and Jo lets herself go with the mood.

One day Jamie turns up unexpectedly and is aghast Jo has seemingly already moved on. He came to tell her that after the psychological interview he had to with Dr Berg a psychiatrist (Annie Potts), he changed his mind about being a donor. Jo reacts by rejecting Lisa who leaves in a fit of anger.

Jo deals with her pain by having too much to drink at a bar where Nate happens to be and feeling weak, Jo aggress to sleep with him and he can fulfill his dream. However, immediately afterwards Jo brushes him off.

Jo realizes that she has now alienated the three main people in her life and with a nudge from Dr Berg, she has to agree that the time has come to finally and positively move on with her life if she is to survive. 

Director Heather de Michelle and writer Gretchen M. Michelfield see this as a serious comedy about dealing with but I did not find much to laugh at as I watched. To me it seems to be a melodrama and the whole idea of the film is a bit too unrealistic. I did feel sympathy for Jo that I think I was supposed to do. Her behavior did not win me over and I failed to identify with her. In fact, she really bothered me.

“My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story of a Town and its People in the Age of AIDS” by Dr. Abraham Verghese— A Memoir

Verghese, Abraham. “My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story of a Town and its People in the Age of AIDS”, Scribner, 2017.

A Memoir

Amos Lassen

Johnson City, Tennessee sits in the Smoky Mountains eastern part of the state. In many aspects it seemed frozen in time and without the anxieties of modern America but then the local hospital got its first AIDS patient and modern times seemed to enter the town.

Abraham Verghese was the local doctor whose specialized in infectious diseases and he, by necessity, became the AIDS expert. It did not take very long before he found himself besieged by a shocking number of male and female patients whose stories came to occupy his mind, and even take over his life. Verghese is a doctor who is unique in his abilities. Even as an outsider, he could talk to people who were suspicious of local MDs and he is a man of grace and compassion who saw that what was happening in this conservative community not just a medical emergency but a spiritual one as well. He gives us here a somewhat shocking portrait of small town America as it faces and eventually overcomes prejudices and fears.

In fall 1985 Verghese with his wife and newborn son returned to Johnson City, Tennessee, the place where he had done his internship and residence. As he watched AIDS infect the small town, he and the community learned the power of compassion. He was an AIDS expert who, at first, had no patients. Soon he met with gay men and then eventually others who were struggling with AIDS which in 1985 was anew disease. Verghese’s patients include a factory worker confronting her husband’s AIDS, bisexuality, and her own HIV status and a religious couple infected via a blood transfusion attempting to keep their disease secret from their church and their children. Written as a novel, this nonfiction, detailed story gives us a sincere perspective on the American response to the spread of AIDS. It is so important to have stories like this; I have feared that once AIDS could be controlled it would fade into history like polio did and we cannot think for a moment that there is no longer a disease called AIDS.

Verghese came to Johnson City in 1985, he came as a newly-accredited infectious diseases specialist to treat veterans, most of whom had lung cancer and emphysema, and to spend one day a week in the town medical center he learned to call the “Miracle Center”. When the center’s first AIDS patient entered the hospital, it was the beginning of the plague that soon spread across the country, not just in the big city locales where the majority of homosexual men and drug abusers lived. Many of those infected with AIDS began coming home to die. Verghese is such a caring doctor, he felt a strong push to help. He is a man who has the ability to tolerate human differences and he loved his patients as people, and as when they began to die, he mourned with the families. His patients were always on his mind constantly, even when he was home with his wife and sons to the point and he put his marriage and home at risk because of his devotion to the pace and people that often excluded those patients because they had AIDS.

At that time there were doctors who would not care for AIDS patients and this separated the medical profession. They let their fear of the disease take precedence over their intellect. Dr. Verghese shared an emotional connection to those infected patients even though this is discouraged strongly during medical training and this came at great personal cost. The doctor desired to fit into the community but in doing so he becomes more and more isolated from his family and his colleagues. Dr. Verghese is a brilliant diagnostician and a men who has his great empathy for his patients. He is nonjudgmental in his approach to the gay lifestyle and he is a decent man who is easily approached. As I read I was often intensely moved as his patients began to die and even more important is that I felt the tremendous waste, once again, that the disease brought about.

Dr. Verghese’s struggle to understand the process of dying became a struggle for so many of us. This is a wonderful read; Verghese writes with compassion and humor and as he introduces us to his patients, we feel we get to know them. We need to remember that in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic began, people judged those with the disease and there were doctors who refused to treat it or those that had it. We also forget that not just those who had AIDS were judged but their families and communities were judged as well. Here we get the entire picture and see that Verghese was interested in the patient, the disease, and learning about the gay culture. He did so without prejudice and we all have something to learn from him.

This is the “simple tale of a doctor and his patients, told with quiet compassion and an eye for the small details of human experience”. He shares his fight to keep people alive and we see how just regular and ordinary Americans confronted this new disease with courage.

Having been raised in the South, I can tell you that all too often, Southern Americans are portrayed as bigoted religious homophobes and in some cases this is true. I would have thought that people in Arkansas were more liberal then they are, for example, but I learned differently when I lived there for some seven years. Dr. Verghese tells us of how the close knit families confront and accept their dying sons and husbands and some of you might be very surprised with what he has to say.

We also become very aware of what he faced as he practiced medicine. While this is quite basically a book about AIDS, it is also a book about families, culture, and especially about the life of ordinary physicians who everyday face issues of sickness and mortality.

“The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir” by Ariel Levy— Reinventing Oneself

Levy, Ariel. “The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir”, Random House, 2017.

Reinventing Oneself

Amos Lassen

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012 when she was thirty-eight years old and pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful. Just one month later, none was this was true on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true. This is the story of how Levy built a life that she watched fall apart. She had been raised to question and to resist tradition regarding love, work and being a woman. She grew up wanting what all of us want— security with a partner and a lover, independence and intimacy and so much more. She gained some of this but then decides that she wants to be free to do whatever she wants to do. This is her story of resilience and a look at how culture changes.

Growing up, Levy thought that she could have everything. She believed in reason, her own worth, and that she had the ability to make her own rules. She traveled he world in search of adventure and then writing about her experiences. She wanted to to be a respected writer, independent and wealthy. She liked to go out and drink and she decided to put off motherhood because she thought that with the advances in science and fertility, she could become a mother whenever she was ready to do so  ready. She married and found comfort there but then realized that she really had no control of anything. This caused her to break out of the regular and take bold risks. Levy has decided to share her world with us.

In this new book she writes about “marriage, infidelity, alcoholism, pregnancy, loss, adventure, and gender. We are with her as she evolves into a new person. Her memoir chronicles her literary ambitions, lusts, and the loss of a child in a Mongolian hotel and it seems to me that she is looking for some way to deal with who she is. The one theme that continually pops up is freedom and holding onto some sense of self-control. She learns to deal with grief after losing a child and she shares that the idea of us having some kind of control is an illusion at best. We have no choice in what we lose (I certainly never expected to lose everything in Hurricane Katrina). Loss counterbalances control and we have certain limitations that we cannot rise above.

This is somewhat painful to read at times because there is so much truth here. We know that we can’t always have what we want and maturity comes out of what we cannot have. Levy writes personably and this is a book about how one woman goes through life with feminist options but without a clear path. We watch Levy grow without rationalizing why she does what she does. Her memoir is one of love and loss and then finding her way. She shares those deep feelings that we all have sometimes but never want to admit to. While we read about Levy’s life as well as parts of our own lives.

 

 

 

“Grandson of a Ghost” by Scott Depalma— The Effect of Suicide

Depalma, Scott. “Grandson of a Ghost: A Suicide’s Secret Aftermath”, Gaga Press, 2016.

The Effect of Suicide

Amos Lassen

Scott Depalma’s “Grandson of a Ghost” looks at how a family’s unspoken and long-lasting grief effected a boy born 25 years after the suicide of his grandfather. As Scott grows up but he does not see how abuse from his mother influenced his perception of the world, and even gave a push to his self-destructive behavior as an adult. After a catastrophic childhood, Scott moved from northern New England where he had had to deal with demons to New York. That was in 1985 and the AIDS crisis and the new wave scene of the East Village were in full swing. He comes out as gay and began a career in the magazine business.

However he still had to deal with depression and feelings of self-doubt so he decided to begin psychotherapy sessions in an attempt to save himself. Through the work with his therapist, Scott began recognizing and confronting his issues of low self-esteem, anger, defensiveness and isolation. He was soon able to accept the love shown by others rather than pushing it away as he was used to doing. He began to understand that love matters and means something. We are lucky that Scott has chosen to shares his journey with us.

This is Depalma’s debut novel an it is based on true events and we learn that his family is still devastated by the suicide of his grandfather when Scott was just five-years-old. His mother doled out relentless physical punishments and this abuse along with being bullied at school weighed heavily on him. In high school hand when he befriended his new neighbor, Tom, he understands his sexuality. However, it was not until he moved to New York to enroll in a summer publishing program that he felt he had any hope, best remedy. But it did not take long before the decadent nightclub scene and a shared apartment worked on dragging him down once again. His coming out to his parents and confiding in a psychotherapist were the first steps towards independence and the peace that he so badly wanted. Depalma is quite good at details and they make up for the lack of narrative tension. His prose is excellent throughout and while this is not a pretty story, it is inspiring. In the beginning this is quite a painful read

The book slowly and at times it is a painful read, but it later becomes quite uplifting and aside from the grandfather’s suicide, many of us have had to deal with similar issues as Scott did. I admire the author’s courage and honesty. We get a very real look at the consequences of a suicide, the ups and downs of life in New York and his coming to terms with his sexuality.

 

“Queer” by Matt Calumet— “Queer” is Who We Are

Calumet, Matt. “Queer”, illustrated by Sarina Darwin, CreateSpace, 2016.

“Queer” Is Who We Are

Amos Lassen

How well equipped are you to define the word “queer”? I remember that a couple of years ago, Harvard University Press published a book entitled, “How To Be Gay” and I thought to myself why would anyone need an almost 500 page book to tell him how to be gay if he was, indeed, born that way. It is true that we are born with our sexuality but the rest of everything is learned behavior and while those of us who live in metropolitan centers can pick these things up from others, it is not the same for someone from, say, Rogers, Arkansas. Here we get a look at the word queer and see that it has a lot of sex but is not pornographic; it is not “political commentary but it does say a lot about society. Queer is not a travel monologue but it does have a lot of travel”. Queer is the story of growing up gay small town America, and going out into the world where many people would not consider living or traveling. “Queer can be brash, loud, in your face and funny, but it is also poignant, revealing and touching”.

“Queer” is a compilation of stories from America, Israel, Poland, Greece, France, the Czech Republic, Greenland, Denmark, Korea, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Georgia and Egypt. These are personal stories related without shame and we learn of adventures, acceptance, denial and life. We meet a guy who takes a boy to the prom, an openly gay non-Jew living on a kibbutz, falling in love and loss, a broken heart, ghosts in Greenland, ridiculous life moments, lasting relationships, and friends who are no longer with us. We learn from many others just what it means to be queer and how we live with that.

“AUSTERLITZ”— Dachau and Sachsenhausen

“Austerlitz”

Dachau and Sachsenhausen

Amos Lassen

Germany-based Ukrainian documentary director Sergei Loznitsa takes us into the former Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. The first word we can make out is “1945”, followed by a shot of the infamous Auschwitz gate that reads “Arbeit macht frei”, work sets you free. The scene is set. You may wonder anyone would want to visit concentration camps while on vacation but this is not something new. We have had several documentaries that focus on tourism and the Holocaust and there is something here that validates who we are and that we are alive while six million others are not.

Loznitsa indirectly follows some of the “Holocaust tourists” with very long shots from fixed camera angles and the framing shots through doors and windows while looking in not out give an intriguing perspective.

I understand that Loznitsa’s preoccupation with these tourists goes beyond the many people coming to the camps. Some are uncomfortable in the face of the camera.

But despite the carefully curated images, do we really understand what happened in the camps. We see people smiling and even eating as others are lost in reverie and holding tight to someone else. Some are totally disrespectful and disinterested.

Holocaust memorials have sprung up in cities around the world and they serve their purpose as a place where we can come and think about the horrors and the indignations that our people experienced at the hands of the Nazis. So then we want to know what is the real purpose of visiting the physical camps where genocide took place.

 

Loznitsa’s enigmatic and thought-provoking piece is in dialogue and concert with many of the ideas and facets of W.G. Sebald’s book of the same name, “Austerlitz”. The book brought fact and fiction together and told about the complexity of collectively remembering the past.

When Loznitsa visited Buchenwald concentration camp and realized that he was there as a tourist, something snapped within. Fifty years ago visiting these places was an act of remembrance but that is not what we see in opening monochrome shots of the film. We see tourists taking selfies against metal gates with ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ wrought into them. From that point on the film is a procession of such shots, each lasting three or four minutes and unobtrusively observing the crowds walking through the death camps. There is no commentary thus the audience is challenged to engage with the images on the screen. Some of what we see is repulsive and we wonder where is the proper decorum for visiting these camps. There is an inherent conflict inherent in the idea of a memorial becoming an exhibit and, as Loznitsa reminds us, an educational tool.

We begin with the voices of individuals that have been kept to a murmur and we hear the clicking of cameras. – the throng and the incessant clicking of cameras is the aural subject. We begin to conversations and see jovial crowds and reflective individuals, and remember that for some the only way to understand such things is to be confronted by them in some way. At the same time, there are those who continue taking pictures of evil and its banalities. What Loznitsa’s observations show us is humanity in a place that furiously and famously denied it. Questions as to why it is necessary to remember come forward.

Cinematographer Jesse Mazuch carefully set up cameras in the most effective positions around a public space and let them run, not caring if they’re noticed. One of these places was Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp. The tourists are engaged in visiting a site of horror: important things happened there, and the desire to visit such horrific places seems to be ingrained in us. Camera positions are set at a respectful distance, and are not interested in the exhibits themselves (except, in one case, some incineration ovens), but in the behavior of the people visiting. Moral complexity emerges straightaway. As dozens of people move in and out of rooms and are glimpsed disappearing into and emerging out of darkness, we cannot help but imagine the prisoners that were tortured, punished and murdered here: political prisoners, Russian soldiers and German ‘traitors’, homosexuals and Jews.

As a viewer, we are quickly tempted to sit in judgment of individual behaviors amongst the crowds. When we see a beautiful young teenage girl gets her portrait taken in front of the iron gate that bears the infamous legend Arbeit Macht Frei at its centre, we are astounded at her lack of understanding and disrespect for where she is and what happened there, but coming to this conclusion, we are also grading the worthiness of human beings. The hundreds of tourists look bored and lost and sometimes inappropriately playful do at times and they invite contempt. We see the way they are dressed and wonder why anyone would come to such a place in a t-shirt and shorts.

As we eventually and gradually get to eavesdrop on the tour guides who fill in the historical background, we can see that the place does have a somber, sobering emotional effect on many. The sequences of images themselves keeps us wondering if any were set up: especially when you get very pretty people walking into a shot that seems so beautifully backlit.

What we get by the end of the documentary is a rounded look at humanity, and of hope, despite the horror of human crimes and the need to revisit them. There is the suggestion that people are not dealing with the real purpose of the memorials; he they statues, simply plaques or former death camps.

This film is presented as ninety minutes without commentary and consists of series of long, lingering shots of tourists walking around Dachau and Sachsenhausen, a former concentration camp near Berlin. We see that most of the visitors seem as if they are walking in a shopping mall or perhaps an art museum. They look aimless, restless, tired and bored.

Despite its lack of narrative or plot, the film is oddly compelling. The disconnect between setting and character provokes a range of feelings. The sight of crowds pouring into a room is creepily reminiscent of Holocaust prisoners being shepherded into train cars or gas chambers. Footage of visitors trying to get their tour headphones to work is amusing but then it really is not. Some visitors joke around or act like they’d rather be anywhere else and this makes the viewer quite angry if not appalled.

We see that it is easy to be swallowed up by the tourist experience and to forget to engage with the significance of a place. None of the tourists captured here are blatantly disrespectful. Rather they are nonchalant and somewhat self-absorbed in the 21st-century way. There are plenty of selfies in “Austerlitz”. Loznitsa’s point is not about individual tourists — whether they choose to take a silly selfie or reflect deeply throughout their visit. The message, he has said, is that visiting a concentration camp should not be presented like any other mundane tourist experience. To me that message is brutally clear.

“CALL ME A GHOST”— An Adult Women

“Call Me A Ghost”

An Adult Film

Amos Lassen

Noel Alejandro’s new short adult film “Call Me A Ghost” which a but of the supernatural to hardcore gay movies.

We do not usually get sad characters in gay porn while in other films we see it but usually because of an act of desperation or the need to feel something. Here sex brings connection and an erotic charge.

“A man is alone in his house, where his world seems solitary and he isn’t happy. Then he goes upstairs into some kind of attic space where he finds another man”, a ghost. Then the man and the ghost speak and the ghost wants to know more about the man and why he’s depressed. He then play him a song that he dances to.

This is quite a different kind of porn and it is interesting.  The film delivers what you’d expect from hardcore—sex-positive filmmaking, well filmed and real sex, between two good-looking guys.

“Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London” by Lauren Elkin— Bending Gender

Elkin, Lauren. “Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London”, Farrar Strauss & Company, 2017.

Bending Gender

Amos Lassen

A flâneur is a masculine figure of privilege and leisure who strides the capitals of the world with abandon. We have read about and from them in the past but here it is the female or the flâneuse who is the center of a new book by cultural critic Lauren Elkin. Elkin gender bends here and sees the flâneuse as a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Holly Golightly totally epitomized it in Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”; and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1970s New York. Virginia Woolf did it before others.

“Flâneuse” is a bit of memoir and a bit of cultural history that takes us on a cosmopolitan journey that begins in New York, where Elkin grew up, and then transports us to Paris via Venice, Tokyo, and London, all cities in which she’s lived. We see the paths taken by nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the wartime correspondent Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. We learn what urban settings have meant to women as we wander through literature, art, history, and film and see the relationship that women have with the city.

Even though we know that women walked cities, we do not think about that as particularly feminine and this is where writer Elkin corrects that and coins the term “flâneuse”. She celebrates women who dared and shares what she has learned about women who did this. She also ties that to her own adventures walking around cities. She also reminds us that even today “a woman still can’t walk in the city the way a man can.”

Elkin’s own story runs through the text and it ties the various other women together. We meet some fascinating characters here including the already mentioned George Sand, Virginia Woolf, Holly Golightly as well Jean Rhys, Sophie Calle, Agnès Varda, and Martha Gellhorn. Other cultural characters pay a visit and among them are Barthes, Rilke, Baudelaire, Hemingway, Derrida, Dickens, and numerous others.

We meet women who have built relationships with their cities by walking through them and making feminist statements as they do. Elkin’s own wanderings are filled with wonderful anecdotes. These women do not or did not wander without direction, they walked as challenges and to create something new that women could embrace.

We see woman as a suppressed intellectual in cultural history who by walking is able to redefine herself. This is really something of a meditation on what it means to be a woman and walk out in the world and it encourages women to walk their cities.

As they do, they will, like the ladies here walk through cultural history, biography, literary criticism, urban topography and memoir. I cannot imagine any women who will not take up that challenge after reading this.

“Are You in a Hurry, Dear?”: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Fabulous Hair” by Milton A. Buras— From New Orleans to New York

Buras, Milton A. “Are You in a Hurry, Dear?”: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Fabulous Hair”, CreateSpace, 2017.

From New Orleans to New York

Amos Lassen

While coming of age in New Orleans, Milton A. Buras knew he was different. While the other boys in his neighborhood were chasing after girls, he was looking at men. He couldn’t vocalize how he felt because in New Orleans in the 1950s, homophobia was everywhere.

However, when he discovered the French Quarter everything changed. It was there that Buras found a vibrant, supportive community of drag queens, hustlers, friends, and lovers all of who helped him in some way to accept himself. They gave him the courage to follow his dreams. Buras gained the courage to move to New York where he became famous as a hair stylist to the stars. He shares the New York of the AIDS epidemic and how that changed the world and what was to come later. This is a personal story as well as a look at a time that was and a song of hope for what is yet to come.