By Jeff Walsh
I'm an unabashed Kinsey Sicks fan, and love seeing them live as well as listening to their recordings. Their latest CD, "Each Hit and I," (say it out loud), is a great addition to your Kinseys collection.
At 20 tracks, this CD covers a lot of ground. There are parody covers, original songs, and a live track with the Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus. But when I think about the CD, my mind keeps drifting to Ani Difranco.
I used to love seeing Ani DiFranco live, but there was a bit of a dilemma for me. She would always be touring when a new album came out, but if you liked the new album, she was already sort of on to the next thing. So, you had to catch the previous tour to hear her really play the songs that would be on the album you eventually liked. Once the CD was out, you already sort of missed it.
This came up to me when I saw the Kinseys multiple times during a two week run in San Francisco. In concert, they were singing "BP is Creepy," an original song about the oil spill (see the video below), and "Bedroom Ants," a Gaga parody about ants largely to "Bad Romance." The new CD came out the day the run began, and these two crowd pleasers weren't on it. But tracks about Michael Jackson ("Dead," to the tune of "Bad") and Britney Spears ("Fertilizer," to the tune of "Womanizer") seemed to be getting a tad dated. So, I figure these were previous live gems that finally found their way onto my iPod, and that lag was unavoidable.
Now, I realize I'm reviewing a funny a capella drag queen album the way other publications are scrutinizing the new output from Arcade Fire, but it's just an observation I had.
SAN FRANCISCO – In a landmark decision today, a federal judge ruled that Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that excluded same-sex couples from marriage in the state, violates the United States Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Lambda Legal filed two friend-of-the-court briefs in the case supporting the argument that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
"Today’s decision is a huge victory for the LGBT people of America. For the first time, a federal court has conducted a trial and found that there is absolutely no reason to deny same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage," said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. "At the same time, we know that this is not the end. In order to give this case the best possible chance of success as it moves through the appeals courts, we need to show that America is ready for same-sex couples to marry by continuing to seek marriage and other relationship protections in states across the country. It’s simply not fair, and not legal, to continue to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage."
In the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8 violates the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. The lawsuit was brought by two same-sex couples after Proposition 8 passed in 2008, amending the California Constitution to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
The ACLU is working with same-sex couples throughout the country to secure the freedom to marry by working to pass marriage bills in New York, Rhode Island and Maine and by seeking domestic partnership recognition in Montana, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and Alaska.
The court’s ruling can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/perry-v-schwartzenegger-decision
By Jeff Walsh
Stonewall Uprising is a new documentary that details the birth of the modern gay rights movement in New York City on June 28, 1969, when a group of patrons at the Stonewall Inn fought back during a regular police raid, leading to three days of riots and our first "pride parade."
Unlike today, where every song at a Lady Gaga concert is covered from every angle by 400 different cell phone and video cameras and uploaded to YouTube, there isn't much footage of the Stonewall Riots, but when this documentary finally gets to that famous night, hearing the oral narrative from the people who were there, combined with photos and talking heads, is still gripping.
Hearing about that night, you understood why this film (which opens in the Bay Area this weekend) was made. But, it did seem to take its time getting to that fateful night. Don't get me wrong, I think context is great, but seeing the old news footage of how homosexuality was treated back in the day seems to run a bit long. Every time we see a talking head, we know they are setting the stage for the riots, and then we drift into more backstory, teased again.
I think recently seeing an oral history so expertly told with We Were Here, made seeing one that just doesn't measure up as effectively more obvious. I saw the same talking heads throughout this film, but it seems they were used more to advance the history of a people. They were there to serve the story of Stonewall, when in fact, they are the story of Stonewall. I'd rather hear them contextualize the history, weave in their own personal narratives, and use that to advance the story.
By Jeff Walsh
Easier With Practice is one of those movies that is impossible to review on a gay site, especially for someone as spoiler-adverse as me.
Because the distributor sent me this with another title, and I didn't even bother to read about it in advance, I just converted it so that I could watch it on my iPad and review it on the plane to or from Hawaii. And, for 90 percent of the movie, my thought was "Why did they send me an interesting, albeit seemingly heterosexual movie?"
In the back of my mind, of course, I thought, "The only way this would be a gay movie is if..." and, of course, that is what ends up being the case. So, we have a gay movie that is sort of a twist gay movie, except to review it on a gay website almost requires you to tell people the twist, so that it actually seems like a gay story.
The question I have, of course, is... if you watch this movie based on knowing it will eventually be a gay movie, even though it doesn't seem like it for most of the film and, because of that knowledge, figure things out in advance that you otherwise wouldn't or shouldn't, is it still a satisfying movie?
And I don't know the answer to that question.
"Strings Attached" by Nick Nolan is a great story of how a closeted teen's life changes and he becomes a man (see review below).
We have three copies of this book to give away. One grand prize winner will get a signed copy, and two others will win copies of the book, as well.
To enter, send me a private message with a subject line of Strings, before July 6, and you're entered. Only one entry per member. And, of course, if you enter, you have to be Ok receiving a gay book in the mail, obviously.
By Jeff Walsh
Nick Nolan's "Strings Attached" is a fun beach read of a book. I can safely say that, as I read it on a beach all day today. But seriously, this novel starts out like your typical gay young adult novel, but then adds a lot of additional layers and metaphors to make it an even more compelling read.
When the book starts, Jeremy has to call 911 for his drunk mother, who almost died... again. He ends up living with his aunt, with whom his mother had a falling out after the death of Jeremy's father. This aunt is incredibly rich, with butlers and a huge mansion overlooking the ocean. In short order, Jeremy goes from poverty to posh.
As you know is a gay young adult novel, you start lining up all the things that will likely happen, and most of them don't. Or few things happen as you initially suspect. If anything, I'd go as far as to say Jeremy's awakening about being gay, while integral to the story, is less dramatic than the family drama around which it is set.
By Jeff Walsh
A lot of times, when reviewing gay movies, I think that I am judging them far more critically than they may have been intended. Usually this frame of reference occurs when I think of the number of movies I have enjoyed in packed theaters of gay audiences, where every sassy comment and sexual remark was met with roaring laughter and people yelling back at the screen.
When I'm writing a critical review of a movie, I often wonder, would I have enjoyed this movie if I had watched it in that setting, as opposed to just popping in a DVD at home, myself, after work? It doesn't mean the movie would be any better, of course, but just shows how much the power of community can inform the experience.
On Sunday, I had the opposite experience watching an almost-completed print of "We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco." I knew it was going to be a heavy movie, given the subject matter, but I had no idea just how palpable the depths of sorrow flowing through the audience would be.
By Jeff Walsh
When we last caught up with Robin De Jesus, he was nominated for a Tony for the role of Sonny in In The Heights. He didn't win, but the show did win Best New Musical. De Jesus ended up performing that role on Broadway for two full years. Then, with just a two week break, he went to the new revival of the La Cage Aux Folles musical.
(If you want to read our earlier interviews first, we first chatted with him the day In The Heights was first opening Off-Broadway, and then nearly a year and a half later, when the show was on Broadway, and De Jesus was nominated for a Tony Award)
You may know La Cage Aux Folles better as The Birdcage, the movie with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a long-time gay couple who run a nightclub with a nightly drag show. There's a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I won't go into (but, if you're so inclined, they're detailed on Wikipedia). The main differences are that this is the musical version with a book by one of my heroes, Harvey Fierstein, and music by Jerry Herman. And, in this revival, the Robin Williams role is played by Kelsey Grammer, aka Frasier.
De Jesus plays Jacob, the supposed maid to the couple who desperately wants to prove to Zaza (the Nathan Lane role), that he's ready to be in the drag show. As you can see from the photo, De Jesus does a good amount of drag in the show. Not that he's a stranger to drag, as he performed as Angel in Rent on Broadway before.
And, to stick with tradition, De Jesus is once again Tony-nominated for his role in La Cage, and I'll certainly be rooting for him on June 13. He is always such a generous, positive spirit, it's always great to catch up with him.
Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
Watching "8: The Mormon Proposition," it's hard to get past the central irony of the Mormon church fighting against alternative marriage, given the church's polygamist roots. But this documentary covering the Mormon's church's fight against gay marriage does make you almost sorry for people who can put such questionable religious teachings above their own family members, friends, and loved ones.
The documentary sheds light on one of the core problems the Mormon church has with gay marriage, which is related to their concept of an afterlife. I will write it out without editorial comment for the sake of brevity. In a nutshell, when you die, you go to your own planet, are reunited with your spouse, and you then have babies and repopulate your planet. I can't watch such nonsense twice to see if I'm missing any details here, but suffice it to say if they allow gay marriage, then their afterlife doesn't work because you have two guys sitting on a planet alone, OK?
By Jeff Walsh
Let's address the obvious straight away. Evelyn Evelyn, the conjoined twin sister singing duo that played San Francisco this weekend, aren't lesbians, or gay, or trans, which may raise the flag of why I'd be reviewing their show for a gay youth site.
I find this sort of thinking to miss the mark entirely. Growing up as conjoined sisters gives them a unique take on life, sure, but it still shines the same light on all of the same issues we see here on a regular basis: difference, adversity, trying to fit in, and trying to pull away from a gift that you were given at birth. For the Neville sisters, it's one another; for everyone else, your sexuality.
As they sing in the bridge to their namesake song: "I never asked for this! I never wanted this! All that I want is some time to myself!" Sound familiar?
With that out of the way, seeing the sisters in their reluctant spotlight at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday night was inspiring. Even with the adoration from the crowd, the sisters always seemed timid and uncomfortable being center stage. In the darkness, they told the tale of their horrible upbringing through an inventive use of shadow puppets, giving us a peek at the tragedy that hangs just underneath the surface of their songs.
By Jeff Walsh
When you watch a movie called "The Big Gay Musical," you know what you signed up for. The only question is, will it deliver? Thankfully, this movie gives you all the laughs, songs, hot guys, and camp that you expect going in.
The movie centers on two actors playing Adam and Steve in an Off-Broadway musical. It has a queeny God, hot muscular angels, and a lot of campy dialogue with double entendres, like this one from their time in the Garden of Eden:
Adam: Last night, you figured out how to pull the skin back! It's so much better that way.
Steve: I know! Now, I really like bananas!
So, yeah, that's the kind of show to expect.
Offstage, the guy who plays Adam is sorting out how he feels about dating, monogamy, and hookups, whereas the actor playing Steve isn't out to his highly-religious parents, who are coming to opening night. With a few other characters and the slutty angels in the show, it ends up being just campy enough, just sexy enough, and with just enough heart to make it fun to watch.
By Jeff Walsh
When I first saw the program for Girlfriend, a new musical based on Matthew Sweet's 1991 album of the same name, I was surprised to only see two names on the cast list. I knew the show was about two teenaged boys who fall in love, but where would the drama come from? It just seemed a tall order to have no outside pressures or voices.
Watching the beginning of the show, though, made me think of a lot of the journals I see here on Oasis on a regular basis, and then I immediately remembered that gay teens don't need external forces to create drama. You can do enough damage on your own.
Girlfriend obviously takes place in the recent past, as the popular student Mike gives the nerdier gay boy Will a mix tape of songs he likes. Like, a literal cassette tape (You can see what one looks like here). Will, of course tries to figure out why this boy, who has all but ignored him for years, is now giving him cassettes and wanting to talk on the phone right before graduation. The mix tape becomes the soundtrack of their relationship, the songs they sing alone and together, and the way they can let their feelings come to the surface in ways they don't when they're just awkwardly talking.
Justin came out on Ugly Betty last night, and this is one of the sweetest, most subtle handlings I've seen on TV. If you want to catch up on the story line, check the four previous videos documenting the lead up to last night's episode by clicking this video and seeing the previous videos uploaded by this same user.
The writers, producers, ABC, and of course, Mark Indelicato all deserve a lot of credit for something so beautiful:
By Jeff Walsh
This past Saturday, Gavin Creel was in New York City, talking to me on the phone.
18 hours after this interview, a car picked him up early in the morning, and took him to the airport, where he boarded a jet to London. In a few weeks, he and the rest of the Broadway tribe of Hair will open the show in the West End. Creel was Tony nominated for his turn as Claude, the conflicted hippie who has to decide what's important for him as the summer of love overlaps with the Vietnam War.
I reviewed the show back in January, but didn't realize at the time that Creel was openly gay. Having figured that out at some later point, we had a few interview attempts, but our schedules weren't lining up.
With the clock ticking on how long Creel would be on American soil, before bringing his magical show of peace and love to London, we finally made it happen. Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
I was surprised to find out that, despite watching the show for many years, I've never interviewed a Project Runway contestant for Oasis before. This year, I was interested to talk with Jay Nicholas Sario, who lives in San Francisco, works for The Gap, and as of this writing, is still going strong on the show. We set up the interview recently through the show's publicist, only to discover that we work within a block of one another. Jay jumped on the phone call just as my automated corporate teleconference voice announced that the call was being recorded. He immediately jumped in.
Oh no... I'm nervous!
But there's no video?! They video'd you on Project Runway. This is just audio and it's not even going to be broadcast.