By Jeff Walsh
Two groundbreaking gay comics are out this month with new specials. Jason Stuart: Making It To The Middle (airing on here! TV) and Suzanne Westenhoefer: A Bottom On Top (airing on LOGO, and available on DVD) are two examples of gay standup pioneers still doing their thing. Both filmed their specials away from the traditional gay cities, both have acts that largely deal with them being gay, but on many levels they couldn't be more different.
Stuart comes across as very caring, down to earth and nice in the interview segments during his special, but onstage that's all gone. His act was just too ADD and superficially gay for me (the ADD thing is saying a lot for a comic, since they all tend to go from one topic to another, often without any transition). It just seemed more like a lot of interplay with the audience, mincing and quips, "brokeback" moments with a cute guy in the front row, and a frenzy and rush that never lets up. But that pace also robs us of getting to know Stuart better.
Westenhoefer, on the other hand, goes onstage without much of a script, and most of her show is improvised. But, she just seems so calm and natural onstage, just letting the stories unspool, but always bringing the funny at regular intervals.
By Jeff Walsh
"Shelter" is a sweet story of a young artist/surfer in southern California. Zach (played by Trevor Wright) works low-paying jobs, juggles his schedule with his sister to take care of her 5-year-old son, and when he's not doing those things he either works on his art of goes surfing. The movie opens in limited release, including San Francisco and Berkeley, this weekend and will debut on the here! Network next month.
Zach and his girlfriend have been in an on-again, off-again relationship. He doesn't see any way out of his entire situation, despite his dream of going to art school, which his sister dismisses as more trouble than its worth. Things change when he runs into his best friend's older brother Shaun (Brad Rowe, who you might remember from Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), who is staying at his family's beach house for a while.
The two have chemistry together and, after a few beers, kiss one night. Things progress on a subsequent meeting. Eventually, Zach's sister has a problem with her son being around Shaun because he's gay, and this is before she even knows that he and Zach are dating.
"Gay Power," a historical book by David Eisenbach, does what it says it will do. Starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, it covers the gay rights revolution -- its victories, its losses, what sparked new energies and what sent us back to our closets, until 1980. Going into close details, it covers the beginning of an era. To most of us on this site, it is what led up to the world we know. In the 300-and-some pages of this volume, just about everything is covered.
Still, it left something to be desired. As a nonfiction reader, I've seen textbooky books before, and this is one of them. It left me wondering about the people behind the decade explored. I saw the what, the when, but there was very little 'who.' I wanted to feel what it was like. It's my history. Who wants to be detached from their past?
The view of "Gay Power" also seemed narrow... halfway through I started to wonder, did they have transsexuals in the '70s? While lesbians were mentioned (though not as much as they could've been), I missed the transsexuals altogether. Before the reader is the face of the beginning of a still-moving revolution... but where is the body, where are the complexities?
Having watched many gay-related movies, Keillers Park felt as though I had already seen it. We have a closeted gay man, Peter, who's engaged to a woman, and ends up being propositioned by a gay man, Nassim, in a park, they have sex and fall in love. Peter's fiance "discovers" that he's gay when he tries to penetrate her from the behind, because that is, apparently, a sure giveaway. Straight men NEVER have anal sex with women! Of course not...
It seems as though you're supposed to feel bad for the Peter, but he comes off as a bit of a jerk. The only thing that makes you feel bad for him is the fact that his family disowns him for being gay. Other than that, he isn't exactly likable. Though, as far as the story goes, it's hard to tell if it's an intended distaste or poor character writing.
I wouldn't call this movie entirely unoriginal, however. On top of this story line there is a shred of originality. The overlying theme is a murder mystery, and you're plagued with the question of whether or not Peter murdered his lover.
When I chose to review Lesbian Sex and Sexuality, I had no clue what it was about other then the obvious -- lesbian sex and sexuality -- but what that really entailed and meant I hadn't the foggiest idea. This two-DVD set is a documentary of six different episodes that address different areas and subjects of lesbian sex and sexuality:
Porn Today: Pushing the Limits which is all about the lesbian porn industry and how it has and is continuing to evolve. In it they talk to a couple of the major porn directors.
For Your Pleasure: Erotic Dancers follows 3 erotic dancers through their daily lives and looks into the lesbian club and bar scene.
The Evolution of Erotica is a history lesson on the printed and video lesbian industry. It goes back to the roots of lesbian porn and was very interesting.
From today's show:
By Jeff Walsh
As one of the fab five on Queer Eye, Jai Rodriguez always seemed to capture my attention. Sure, he's gorgeous. But, there always seemed to be something more to his role on the show. While all the other guys performed their roles admirably, Jai always seemed to go for making deep, meaningful connections with the people they were helping on the show and most often connecting their personal story to his function, whereas the others were making kitchen klutzes try to bake and down-scale dressers add more pizzazz.
Since the show ended, he's been seen on Nip/Tuck, and this year will show up in two different reality series, America's Prom Queen for ABC Family and Groomer Has It for Animal Planet, which Jai describes on his MySpace as "Project Runway for dog groomers."
Aside from that, Rodriguez has been putting the finishing touches on his debut album, the first single from which "Broken," you can listen to on his MySpace. He also worked the boards as Angel in Broadway's Rent.
I spoke with him quite a while back, as he was on a train this summer headed to his high school reunion, but finally decided to post the damned thing already. Here's what we said way back when I was significantly younger about Queer Eye, breaking into music, Rent, and coming out:
Ten years after Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered because of his sexual orientation, a 15-year-old gay California student is dead after a student allegedly shot him because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. He had previously been on life support, although brain dead.
Lawrence King, an eighth-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, was being kept alive today for organ donation after being shot Tuesday morning in class. The 14-year-old attacker, among a group of students known to bully and harass King because he sometimes wore makeup and jewelry and told classmates he was gay, will be charged with murder and a hate crime.
By Jeff Walsh
Mika stormed through San Francisco again on Tuesday night, toward the tail end of his ongoing tour supporting his amazing first album, "Life in Cartoon Motion." This was his second time in our fair city, and I was also at his first go-round at The Fillmore back in June.
As you would expect, the show was completely sold out and, as you'd also expect, the set list included his entire debut album, as well as a few new songs and his seemingly obligatory Eurythmics cover. Last time he was here, he played Sweet Dream (Are Made of This), but we got "Missionary Man" this time around.
By Jeff Walsh
For anyone living near or visiting San Francisco in the near future, there is an amazing new musical called "Insignificant Others" that is not to be missed. The show is a romantic comedy about five friends who move to San Francisco from the Midwest and learn the value of friendship.
The show is a decidedly San Francisco musical, so much so that it is about to begin what should be a long-standing run on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, which is tourist central. The show has many gay elements, but if you're coming to town with a mixed group, it's by no means a "gay show," so you can certainly get it in under the radar if you're closeted.
By Jeff Walsh
Xanadu, the new Broadway musical based on the old train wreck of a 1980s Olivia Newton John movie, is hard to pin down. It's definitely a campy, amusing time at the theater. It has an excellent cast and staging. And it calls to mind other jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia, Footloose, Saturday Night Fever, only it never really lives up to all you hope it might be.
To be fair, the entire premise didn't leave writer Douglas Carter Beane all that much to work with. Sonny spends his time drawing chalk murals on Venice Beach sidewalks. He draws a picture of Greek muses, which comes to life, and the Greek goddess Clio becomes his muse and inspires him to follow his dream, which is to open a roller disco. That's pretty much it, as well as a score by the Electric Light Orchestra.
The show doesn't put on any airs, though. It is completely aware of its frivolity, one character even refers to the show onstage as "This is like children's theater for 40-year-old gay people!"
By Jeff Walsh
Todd Herzog wanted to go on Survivor since he was an overweight 15-year-old in Utah. When he finally turned 21, the now-skinny gay Mormon flight attendant almost made it on the show two seasons ago, but was turned away because the producers felt that he looked too much like hunky Asian hottie Brad Virata?!? But, this time around, Todd made it to Survivor: China, where he made no secret about the fact that he was playing the game and playing to win.
Last night, he took home the million-dollar prize. Possibly the youngest winner of the show, and the first gay winner since daddybear Richard Hatch on the first season, Todd actually founded a Survivor club when he was in high school. He was even voted "most likely to appear on Survivor." So, this wasn't just a passing fancy for him. Online, he has his detractors, to put it mildly. He made no bones about the fact that he would lie and manipulate people to win (but if you don't, you don't win.).
Todd called us up himself Monday after waking up from an afternoon catnap in his apartment in Utah. Well, OK, actually CBS publicity called us and Todd (who was now in New York City, and had yet to sleep from winning the show 17 hours earlier in Los Angeles) spoke to us while still buzzing on the frenzy of the finale, after hours of endless interviews. Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
Pratibha Parmar is the writer, producer, and director the lesbian romantic comedy "Nina's Heavenly Delights," a fun story about food, family, and culture that opens in San Francisco this week and in other major U.S. cities throughout the year. Parmar was in San Francisco this week to promote the movie, as well as work on her next project involving The Color Purple author Alice Walker, so we had a chance to sit down in a café near the Bay Bridge for a chat the other day. We talked about the film, being vegan (she told me "there are meat dishes in the film just to appeal to a broad audience"), the Color Purple, and gay marriage. My review of her movie is here; the interview went as follows:
By Jeff Walsh
Nina's Heavenly Delights is a Scottish Asian story about an Indian cooking competition, but the universal themes will satisfy the most discerning film lover's palette.
Over the opening credits, we see a very young Nina and her father cooking together, and witness the passion he brings to cooking. The movie begins as Nina returns home to Glasgow upon learning of her father's death. Her childhood friend Bobbi, who dreams of performing in drag in a Bollywood movie, picks her up at the airport.
Nina Shah moved to London after some family altercation, and there is obvious tension between her and the family she left behind. The Shahs have an award-winning Indian restaurant called The New Taj, of which a young woman named Lisa now owns half after Nina's father had lost half of the business as part of a bet.
As the story moves on, we find out that every member of the Shah family has a secret involving a hidden love, and each of them keep it hidden because of family obligation.
By Jeff Walsh
"Kurt Cobain: About A Son" (now playing in select theaters) is sort of an oral autobiography played over a Pacific Northwest travelogue. While Kurt narrates his growing up, interest in music, and reaction to fame, we see scenes of the cities he talks about. It is definitely an interesting presentation, in that there is no title up front mentioning Cobain, barely any photos of him during the entire film, save for some live concerts where he's hard to make out, and only a handful of portraits at the very end. Theater-hoppers who show up to this movie late won't know what the hell's going on, with a disembodied voice talking about growing up, while visuals of a lumber yard and other assorted segments show underneath.
I'll come right out and state upfront that I am a huge Nirvana fan. I heard Nevermind when it debuted on the local college radio station, rushed out to buy it the next day, and bought the only copy the store had in stock, a month or so before it would start getting airplay. I got to see them live two nights in one week on their In Utero tour, the week before they recorded their famous Unplugged set. I even have a Kurt Cobain "action figure" on my Amazon wishlist. So, when I heard this movie was edited from more than 25 hours of audio interviews Cobain did with Michael Azerrad for his book "Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana," I was more interested in when an audiobook of those interviews would be made available than in the 90-minute movie.