Saving Madonna

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Dear Madonna,

I have been a fan since the beginning of your career, since The Virgin Tour, but this is the first time I am writing to you. You haven’t needed my help until now. As a gay man in his mid-forties, there are only a couple things bigger in entertainment than the Madonna brand you have created—Barbra Streisand and the Broadway stage. This week you pooped on one of those things, and thankfully Babs was not your toilet, or I really would fear for you. The Streisand is very powerful.

This open letter was initially intended as a defense for you. I was at Coachella. I saw you kiss Drake, and saw the repercussions — the blatant ageism streaming out of the media. I didn’t like it one bit. Your act hasn’t changed, and you are still an amazing performer doing fantastic work. You are still a vibrant sexual being, and if the kids don’t like it, then F them. In fact, you have done just that to many young men, and I say keep up the good work. Older male stars have been paired up with young ingénues for years, and nobody seems to care, but there is a double standard for women. That is just not fair.

Then, this week you attended a performance of the musical Hamilton on Broadway and texted during the entire performance. Oh, hell no. Like I said, there are things bigger than you, and the Broadway stage is one of them. Regular people have to pay a lot of hard earned money to attend shows, and nobody gets the right to ruin their experiences. I would think a performer of your stature would respect any person on any stage, and I am very disappointed in you.

You call yourself an artist. An artist holds a mirror up for society to see their reflection and learn something or be moved. You are too busy looking in the black mirror at yourself. That is called an egomaniac. Please note that I’m taking the time to write, because I believe there is still hope for you. Kanye is not getting a letter.

First, you need to publicly apologize to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast and crew of Hamilton, and everyone in attendance. This will be difficult for you, because you think an apology shows weakness and have learned long ago to not apologize for your art. You never should apologize for your art, but you need to apologize for your bad behavior. You are not some Midwest tourist who never attends theater and doesn’t know better. You are an internationally traveled adult. Also, to be clear, do not post pictures of Margret Thatcher, give explanations and excuses, or deny that you did it. Social media is a two way street and we saw you. America loves a mea culpa, and Broadway deserves an apology.

Next, you need to put down the phone. You actually have people that can hold that for you, or, you know, get a purse. If you watch and listen to the people around you, you will be a better human, and thusly a better artist. I know you’ll do the right thing, so don’t disappoint me. We’re ready to forgive you and move on to dancing. Thank you for the music, and you’re welcome for the advice.

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Golden Boys

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It has been a busy and fun few weeks since last we spoke. Albert and I spent a very fun Valentine’s weekend in Palm Springs with our friends Gabi and Glenn by the pool and shopping the strip. We stopped at Starbucks on Palm Canyon to have a coffee and people-watch before driving home. I should now remind you that Albert never recognizes anyone.

We are sitting enjoying our lattes when I see Rufus Wainwright approaching with his adorable daughter. Rufus is one of my favorite singer-songwriters (I named my first cat after him) and I am casually freaking out. He is wearing a sweater that has been turned into leggings, and she is wearing a simple denim dress. They look like poor hippies. I look at Albert wide-eyed and whisper, “Do you know who that is?”

“Who? That little Amish girl?”

“No, not the little Amish girl. The little waif’s dad! It’s Rufus Wainwright!”

Albert is also a fan, so now he is as star-struck as I am. I should also add that we tend to leave celebrities alone in Los Angeles. I figured not many people would recognize him, we are not technically in LA, and I was not going to miss my opportunity to exchange words with this musical genius.

As he walks into the coffee shop, I stop him and say, “Excuse me, I’m a huge fan, and I just wanted tell you that your daughter is beautiful.” She has long blonde hair and porcelain skin. Rufus looks at me with a devilish grin, tosses his hair, and says, “Well, she takes after her father.”

The little girl is clearly used to this, and tosses her own hair at her father. “But my hair is longer, Daddy.” Rufus looks back at me laughing, and says, “But her hair is longer.”

I have read about little Viva and have heard songs written about her, including the brilliant Montauk, so it was thrill to meet her. She is the baby of Rufus with Leonard Cohen’s daughter, so she has amazing music potential in her blood. It somehow makes me happy that this little Amish girl could be Baby Gaga.

My other recent star sightings have been less glamorous. We spotted Rip Taylor at the IHOP in WeHo, Anthony Bourdain at the Tender Greens in Hollywood, and “the tan lady” at the Veggie Grill. She looked ridiculously dark, and mentally unbalanced. The media had consumed her and spit her back out near the Cinerama Dome.

On a more fun note, the Academy just gave out movie awards, and we celebrated by throwing an Oscar bash. My food spread included Patricia Baguettes with Mark Buffalo dip, and Julianne Smoores for dessert. Albert wired the house for tvs and lit up the yard and house with colored lights. The wysteria and jasmine were in full bloom to scent the party like candy. It was a week of setting up and week of cleaning up afterwards, but always worth it to party with new and old friends. Also, my favorite movie of the year actually took the Best Picture award. Go Birdman!

I am thrilled that our house has been featured in a new lifestyle magazine called Labor of Love. It is a specialty publication that looks at the lives and homes of creative people, and I am honored to be included with people that are much more talented than myself. You can download the premier issue for FREE for the month of March at the link below. Or, if you can, please purchase your copy today and help support this creative endeavour! Did I mention that I’m in it?

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/880600?__r=565743

Dead Again

JackAlbertFirst of all, if you’ve never seen the 1991 movie Dead Again, it’s a great rental. That’s not with this post is about, but the title is appropriate for my week. I should begin by saying that Albert and I got Apple TV for Christmas, and recently hooked it up. The best thing about it, besides the actual television streaming, is that it can play a slideshow of your photos from your computer. So, whenever the tv goes idle, pictures from your past start floating across the screen. It’s lovely.

I have already told you that somebody from the Hollywood Forever cemetery recently came by to try and sell me a space in their dirt. This is not a door-to-door salesman anyone wants coming by, really ever. I could be at death’s door, hemorrhaging blood, and would still tell the cemetery salesman, “I’m not ready!” So, it was somewhat unsettling that I got at least three reminders of my very old age this week. It began simply, with yet another invitation to join AARP. Um, I am 45.

The next day, I got a postcard from The Neptune Society. These people have skipped my retirement and are ready to cremate me. They have been “caring for families since 1973.” And by caring, I mean burning. For the record, I could care less what happens to my body when I pass, because I won’t be around to watch. I’ll already be off haunting people, which sounds like an eternal surprise party.

The next day I had another salesman come to my door, from a different cemetery, this time in North Hollywood. I can’t spend eternity in the Valley. Also, the salesman presented me with a brochure in Spanish, and I’m not sure if I have time to learn another language before I pass.

At this point, I am pretty sure that I’m dying. The salesman from Dignity Memorial in NoHo is packing up his briefcase of doom and leaving the house, and I am wondering what the hell is going on. Am I being punked by God, or is my time here coming to an end? I turn around toward my television, and my whole life is passing before my eyes, one beautiful friend and family member after another. Yes, I guess I’m dead, and heaven is a bungalow in Hollywood. Boo.

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

IMG_1525The above picture is my duck homage to Bette and Dot from AHS: Freak Show.

Over the Christmas holiday Albert was obsessed with Serial, which became a viral phenomenon. He was telling me about this new podcast that had the whole world sitting around, just listening to people tell a story, with just words. Oh my God, what century is it? All of the steampunks and hipsters have literally turned us back into 1920 radio days. I was about to buy music last week, and Albert stopped me and said, “Oh, people aren’t doing that anymore.”

“But I want to buy it, so I can put it on my playlist.”

“No, people are just doing Spotify or Pandora, so they don’t have to buy it. You just have to listen to a commercial every now and then.”

“Oh, like the radio.” And I’m out.

It is the 22nd and I have actually kept my New Year’s resolution of having a meatless January, in possibly The Roaring Twenties. The pounds are not falling off of my holiday-swollen-body as I’d hoped, but I am feeling good about saving some animals. I am almost to the point of being an annoying elitist. Albert has cheated twice and eaten animal flesh, so I quickly started referring to him as “weak” and myself “pure,” although I’d much rather be calling both of us “thin.” It’s just not in the cards. We were big-boned in 2014, and I’m pretty sure we’ll stay big-boned in 2015, as long as beer and carbohydrates roam the earth.

I do have a new salad place that is helping me keep the dream of slenderness alive. I highly recommend Mean Greens on Fairfax and Melrose, for those looking for a Tender Greens alternative in Los Angeles. The produce is fresh and locally sourced, the prices are low, there is free parking, and the owners are a super nice group of guys from New York. Give them some business if you are in West Hollywood, because I want them to stay open!

I was at Target this week and noticed a Fifty Shades of Grey pop-up display. They are selling blindfolds, massage oils, and vibrating penis rings at your local discount department store — Expect More Sadomasochism. Pay Less. In case you’re curious, and I know you are, sex toys are located near office supplies.

Into The Words

IMG_1422Happy New Year and congratulations! We all made it to 2015, with my liver still trying to process the holiday alcohol. I’m, of course, trying to burn off the fat from Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, and Halloween candy from last year, so the New Year has me hungry. Albert and I are also doing a meatless January to try to shed the combined weight of guilt and animal tears. This is a pretty easy thing to do in Los Angeles, because the vegetarian options abound and are delicious. BUT, let me tell you now, if I gain weight instead of lose it on this diet of shrubs and seeds, watch your animals in February because I will be hungry and there will be carnage. Speaking of pets, look (above) how big Jack has gotten!

So, I am at Gold’s gym today, and there is an ad for a 12-week weight-loss exercise program. The background is a black man with a very large belly, and in front of that is the same man, skinnier and holding a child, and it says that he can be a hero now. Well as a graphic designer, the poster reads that the man had some sort of miracle baby in only 12 short weeks, thusly dropping the weight, like a hot placenta. Hell, I think he’s a hero for just being able to have to have the child at all.

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So I’m confused and hungry because I’m starving, and I’m walking home from the gym when I see the plastic of a blister-card on the sidewalk. The plastic packaging is in the shape of a tiny penis and testicles and I think to myself, “When did they start selling baby penises at the Dollar Store? How do they stay fresh? Are the kids sucking on hard candy dicks and balls these days?” I look further to see that the packaging, in fact, belonged to safety scissors, which was disappointing.

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Christmas with the family in Cincinnati was great. Albert and I got to see a lot of friends also, and special thanks to Kim for hosting her annual Night After Christmas bash, where I got to catch up with the old gang who are now spread across the country. Of course the traveling back and forth was the usual and expensive pain in the ass, this time with United. EVERY leg of the trip, and there were many, was delayed, even though the weather was lovely. Oh, and there was much running to make connections, and neither food nor entertainment once on board.

Speaking of entertainment, I have two movies to briefly review for you. I’m a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan and have enjoyed all of his films. I absolutely hated Inherent Vice and had trouble staying awake. You have been warned. The flip side of that coin is Into the Woods. I’m a huge fan of the stage musical, of Sondheim, and of Rob Marshall, and I think the movie musical is stunning. It’s visually gorgeous, the score has never sounded so lush, and it’s just so smart. I’ve gone Into the Woods twice already, and I recommend the trip to anyone. There is no better way to start the New Year then going deep into an enchanted forest, and having a chorus of people singing to you, “No one is alone.”

Big and Little Apples

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Somebody asked me if all we did in New York was see shows. First of all, I wish I could afford to see as many shows as I want, and really, there is only one matinee and one evening performance per day, so no. In addition to Broadway, we went to Central Park, Grand Central Station, the new Highline Park, a Radio City Music Hall tour, and the 911 memorial fountains. The old World Trade Center water footprints are quite stunning, but I couldn’t bring myself to go into the museum. That day is still seared in my brain.

Also, I forget that New York has as many stars as Los Angeles. Upon arrival, we saw Nick Carter walking the backstreets and the plumber from Desperate Housewives checking into our hotel. We also saw Broadway star Christopher Sieber talking to someone on a street corner, like a hooker. Albert also got us tickets to The Daily Show, so we got to see Jon Stewart live and in person, and he is hysterical. He does a little Q&A with his audience before the show, and he is friendly, smart, and quick witted. We were also in the city during Comic Con, so there were costumed characters everywhere, but they blend seamlessly with the locals. Darth Vader, in all black from head to toe and sporting a dramatic cape, is definitely a New Yorker. I’m still tired from our non-stop vacation activity.

Speaking of stars, last week Albert and I were at The Grove and I spotted Tilda Swinton walk past us. We had just purchased a pumpkin at The Farmers’ Market, and when I mentioned to Albert who had just walked by us, he started chasing her. Rarely does he get that excited that he would chase a celebrity, particularly while carrying a large orange squash. He never caught her, which is probably for the best, because I’m pretty sure Tilda would have frowned upon being hunted by a man wielding a large pumpkin.

Last week, Albert and I were enjoying some Tuesday tacos at Malibu Fish Grill. I got up to get some of their amazing fat-ass tartar sauce, when I passed a little girl in a stroller. I can’t pass by a baby and not say hello, so I bent over to chat with the child who was less than two years old, and said hi to the mother. The little girl looked at me, pointed and yelled, “apple!”

I tried to continue the conversation with, “So, did you have an apple for lunch? I had a fish taco.” I sound like a strange man-baby.

The mother looked at me, held up her iPhone, and said, “Apple. She wants your phone.”

Oh my God, this little baby wants my technology. She doesn’t even know that an apple is fruit. How am I going to have a meaningful conversation with a tech-obsessed stupid baby that can’t even tell me what she had for lunch? Geesh.

This week Albert and I went to see the national tour of Pippin at the Pantages. If you are a fan of this show, it is by the far the best production of it I have ever seen. The singing and staging are a fantastic non-stop circus act. Los Angeles also has the original lead, and the Tony-winning Andrea Martin reprising her role as Berthe. Martin’s well-deserved applause for her trapeze number actually stopped the show, only the second time in my life I have ever seen anybody do that (the other time being Eden Espinosa in Brooklyn). With all that said, Pippin is still an overly simple, abstract, conceptual piece that is not for everyone. Act one is better than act two, and the lead is so whiney that Albert cringes every time he hears the name…Pippin.

New York, New York

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Albert and I just got back from a New York City theater vacation. Yes, we have amazing live theater in Los Angeles, both very large spectaculars and small intimate repertory. What don’t we have? Broadway. What people don’t understand, unless they travel to Manhattan, is that Broadway theaters are the perfect middle size. They’re just right. Oh, and then there’s the casts of multitalented triple threats working on those stages. So, for anyone interested in what to see, here’s my two cents.

The first show that we went to was the new musical Here Lies Love at The Public Theatre in the east village. I have been listening to the concept album by David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim for years, and loving it, but never really knew the whole story of Imelda Marcos. This is a modern Eva Peron, and just as Evita featured groundbreaking staging and music, this show breaks new ground again. The entire story is told on a dance floor, much like the Studio 54 where Imelda partied her way into the lives of the world. So the music is disco and dance, and the story takes place on an ever-shifting stage around you. It is a really fun party and an emotional, moving history lesson at the same time. I loved this show and would recommend it to anyone who is still able to shake their moneymakers.

The next show we went to see was Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Belasco Theatre. I have seen two live productions of Hedwig and am a huge fan of the film, so I had high expectations for this first full Broadway production. It delivered in pure glitter-covered adrenaline. We saw Andrew Rannells of The New Normal and Girls fame, and he was absolutely fantastic in the transtastic role. I was never certain if Middle America would accept these characters as leading players in a Broadway musical, but they are almost immediately on board with sympathy and love for them. The show is funny, moving, and electric, and the reaction of the audience filled me with hope. Outsiders are actually being let in. If you are not familiar with Hedwig, rent the John Cameron Mitchell movie immediately.

The next show we caught was a preview of a revival of the classic On the Town. I’ll be honest, I am not usually a fan of old fashioned musical comedies, as I prefer downers like Les Miz, where everybody ends up dead. I’m also not a huge fan of ballet, and the idea for this show sprang from Jerome Robbins. Despite all of this, I thought this production was just about perfect. The sets, the costumes, and the cast, all dancing together to the amazing Leonard Bernstein score, are completely joyful. This is a show you could bring absolutely anybody to and have a great time. It’s interesting to me how every show since the Hair revival is trying to integrate the audience with the cast. The director, John Rando, does that here in the number “Lovely Town” to striking effect. This is going to be a tough show to beat at next year’s Tony Awards so get thee to New York, New York…it’s a helluva town!

The next show we went to was a preview of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This is an Olivier Award-winning play from London based on a best-selling novel that I was not familiar with. Before I give my review, let me say, I think that I would enjoy this novel as the narrator is reading some of it aloud, and the words are lovely.

I hated this play, and let me tell you why. The story is set up as a mystery, but it is solved in act one and then NOTHING happens in act two. Also, the show is about a student with an unnamed social disorder, some sort of autism, and while reading about this is one thing, watching over two hours of tantrums is unnerving. Much of the buzz about this show is the technological staging, which I found completely overblown. The last Olivier Award-winning play I went to see was War Horse, which I also hated. Yes, the horse puppets were fantastic, but the play was lame. In Curious Incident, the acting is great and the staging is unique, but I left with no new insights, other than I don’t care for anything from the London stage. It’s been all hacks since Shakespeare.

Speaking of Shakespeare, the last show we went to was Sleep No More. It is a sexy, moody, immersive experience that I highly recommend to anyone over 18, who is mobile enough to walk and do stairs for three hours. It is a completely unique take on Macbeth set in a dilapidated 1930’s hotel. The audience members wear Venetian masks and essentially play the ghosts, who are haunting the actors in the show. The cast is made up of phenomenal model/dancers who violently and elegantly perform the conceptual play all over the five-story space. The audience gets to follow whomever they want in the cast, sometimes running in the dark to catch them, doing everything from the dramatic to the mundane. I watched a king being suffocated, a nurse sleeping on a bed of rocks, and one sexy dancer take a rape-shower. The hotel is a set decorator and art director’s heaven, and Sleep No More is filled with plenty of time-tested crowd pleasers—sex and blood. Apparently they are working on a Los Angeles production of this show, and I would definitely check back in to this hotel in a heartbeat.