Gay marriage in Rhode Island

gay marriage

Wonderful news! The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has become the tenth state of the Union to legalize gay marriage!

It’s a great day. It’s not a universally great day, of course; the federal government still doesn’t recognize gay marriage, which means we’re still in the turbulent state-by-state era in which interracial couples used to live. (Imagine: it used to be illegal for black people to marry white people, and states – well, hmm, Southern states – could still forbid it. Imagine!)

Will Partner and I marry? I don’t know. Largely it will depend on whether the pros outweigh the cons. Will it have tax advantages? Maybe yes, maybe no. Will it guarantee us the right to visit one another in the hospital when we’re sick? Almost certainly yes. (This is a big plus, because we’re both getting older.) What about the rights to inheritance, and to determine what happens when either of us passes away? (Another big plus, and I don’t need to remind you once that we’re getting older.) And, if gay marriage isn’t confirmed on the Federal level, the whole thing can still be thrown out the window.

But don’t worry. If we decide to get married, I’ll be sure to announce it well in advance.

And I warn you that I expect very lavish wedding gifts.

Movie review: “The Loved One” (1965)


TCM featured “The Loved One” recently. The novel (by Evelyn Waugh) was strange enough, but the movie is stranger still. It was billed as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone.” Listen to this cast list: Milton Berle, Rod Steiger, Robert Morse, John Gielgud, Jonathan Winters, Liberace, Robert Morley, Tab Hunter.



Summary: an innocent young English poet-wannabe (Morse) comes to America in the 1960s to visit (and sponge upon) his successful uncle (the fey John Gielgud), who’s working in the movie industry. Uncle is fired from his studio and commits suicide. Nephew has nothing to fall back upon, and goes into the pet-cemetery business. His girlfriend (Anjanette Comer), who happens to be an embalmer at a high-class cemetery –



Well, you should really see the movie. It’s too funny and odd and outrageous.



Waugh’s novel is bitter enough, but the movie is far darker. It’s a bitter movie about the movie industry and the artificiality of Hollywood. Americans are shown to be shallow and stupid, but the British colony in Hollywood (led by the insufferably stuffy Robert Morley, an actor who plays “prime ministers and butlers”) is portrayed just as badly.



And the moral is: human beings are a bad lot. Bring on the replacements.



(Postscript: I couldn’t help counting up the name of gay actors in the cast: Gielgud, Liberace, Tab Hunter, Roddy MacDowell. It was a pleasure seeing them all together here. I hope they all got together after filming, and had a drink and a good laugh.)


Saving the rhinos


“I know how to save the rhinos,” my co-worker Apollonia announced at lunch the other day. “Really. It amazes me that no one has thought of this before.”



“Enlighten us,” I said.



She eyed me balefully. “You’ll think this is stupid, I know. But hear me out. People are killing rhinos because they want their horns, right? The greatest threat to rhinos is human beings, because they want their horns. So we corral all the rhinos, and tranquilize them, and remove their horns. Then there’s no reason for the poachers to kill them.”



I didn’t respond right away. Finally I covered my nose with my hand and said: “Ow!”



She scowled. “It wouldn’t hurt them. A rhino horn is made of keratin. It’s like a fingernail. They don’t need it.”



“How do you know that?”



“It’s obvious.”



“What if it’s necessary to life as a rhino? What if –“



“Oh, they don’t use it for anything. They prance around, and jab one another with it.”



“Maybe,” I said, “girl rhinos judge boy rhinos by their horns. Maybe girl rhinos won’t be interested in boy rhinos anymore if the boy rhinos don’t have horns.”



“You,” Apollonia declared, “have no idea what you’re talking about.”



I ignored the obvious ridiculousness of this statement. “Okay,” I said. “So now what?”



“So,” Apollonia said, eyes glittering, “we need to put the idea out there. On the Internet.”



“Geez,” I said. “I don’t know anything about the Internet. How would we do a thing like that? Unless you want me to write about it in my blog, and use your real name – ”



“No!” she shrieked. “Don’t you dare!”



So there you are, kids.



Of course, there are also groups like, which address the issue more directly.



But think about dear Apollonia’s idea.



Not very good, is it?



But her heart is in the right place.



Go visit, and see what you think.


Movie review: “Star Trek Into Darkness”

star trek into darkness ii

I was nine years old and in the fifth grade when the first “Star Trek” series began on TV. It was a bit late – ten o’clock, I think – but, for some reason, my parents allowed me watch it. I was hypnotized. I remember especially the “Cat’s Paw” episode, with Korob and Sylvia, which first aired just before Halloween 1967:

I’ve never been  the same since.

I’ve seen most of the various TV series, and most of the movies. I didn’t care much for “Next Generation,” but I did love “Deep Space Nine.” “Voyager” I flirted with, but we never fell in love. “Enterprise” I didn’t connect with at all, though I think Scott Bakula is very hot.

The movies have mostly been disappointments. The first one was much looked forward to – I remember yelling “Beam me up!” in the theater lobby, which everyone thought was very funny – but it was really pretty terrible. “Wrath of Khan” was a good movie, as was the one with the whales – what was it? – “The Voyage Home.” Most of the “Next Generation” movies were completely forgettable. The movie before this one, “Star Trek” with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, was pretty good, although it seemed to indicate that we were moving  into, ahem, an alternate timeline, in which things didn’t happen the way they did in the original TV show or the first few movies.

Anyway: so here we are, on our second movie! Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) are still both very cute. (The director likes to let the camera dwell on Chris’s pretty eyes for minutes at a time. I admit that his eyes are very special.) Spock is still in a relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and they’re spatting this time around, which is also cute. Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and McCoy (Karl Urban) create a solid old-fashioned connection to the original series, funny and serious at the same time, and all three of them give terrific performances.

But, unfortunately, all of the above excellent performers are saddled with a sub-standard plot.

Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain, and he’s very good at being a villain, because he has that voice, and that slightly-inhuman face. But the plot is all things blowing up, and maybe the Klingons will attack us, and maybe there are bad guys within StarFleet!

Yeah, mm-hmm. We’ve done this before. About a million times.

There is a ton of stuff in this movie for the fans (which non-fans will not even notice): tribbles, a mention of Harry Mudd, the appearance of Carol Marcus. The producers made a big deal of not revealing the movie’s plot in advance, and I’ll play along. I will say this: Cumberbatch is playing a villain named John Harrison, but John Harrison is not his real name.

I went to this film as a Star Trek fan always does, hoping for a really good movie.

I came away thinking: “Oh, well. Chris Pine is cute, so it wasn’t a total loss.”

Well, anyway, I have high hopes for next weekend’s “Man of Steel.”

And if it turns out to be terrible: well, at least Henry Cavill’s very cute.

The art of the tummler

art of the tummler

Partner and I were down on Cape Cod a few weeks ago, and we ate at our favorite restaurant, Captain Parker’s in West Yarmouth. The bar is always crowded with locals (always a good sign), and the dining room is always crowded with tourists like us (also a good sign), and the seafood is excellent.



I recognized our waiter on sight, as he’s waited on us before. He was a big cheerful guy, who worked the room like an expert; he chatted us up, wanted to know if we were golfers (which flattered us both, as we’re not golfers by a long shot); he got involved in a long conversation at a neighboring table about a recent Red Sox game; he jollied up the nearby birthday-party table by wanting to know where everyone was from, and pretended to know terrible stories about people from those towns.



He was, in short, a tummler.






tummler [toom-ler]: noun

  1. 1.     A male entertainer as formerly employed by resorts in the Catskill Mountains, who combined the duties of a comedian, activities director, and master of ceremonies, and whose responsibility was to keep the guests amused throughout their stay.
  2. 2.     Any lively, prankish, or mischievous man.

Origin: 1930-35 Yiddish tumler, one who makes a racket.



Many of the comedians of my childhood – Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers – worked as tummlers early in their careers. Most of the big Catskills resorts have closed down since those days, of course. But the personality type (see definition #2 above) will go on forever.



Our friend at Captain Parker’s is a good tummler: friendly, amiable, and with a excellent sense of when to stop.



Some tummlers, however, do not have this nice awareness of their role. They think of themselves as the lives of the party, and end up being – well – obnoxious.



I think we all know a few of these. They’re noisy, and they never let up.



We like an occasional dose of Jerry Lewis or Milton Berle. We don’t want to live with them.


For Sunday: the Kinks sing “Village Green Preservation Society”

village green preservation society

This song goes out dedicated to two of my friends:

–         Joanne, in Connecticut, who (literally) introduced me to the Kinks one dark evening in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1978;

–         Oma, in England, who actually lives in an English cottage.

All together now:

We are the Village Green Preservation Society,

God save Donald Duck, vaudeville, and variety.

We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society,

God save strawberry jam and all its different varieties.

Death on the Internet

death on the internet

A co-worker and dear friend – let’s call her Lily – passed away about two years ago. At the time of her decease, she had all of five Facebook friends, of whom I was one.



She used to fret over her Facebook status constantly. She hated the fact that Facebook presented her as both a graduate of Harvard and Simmons. “Why doesn’t it always show Harvard first?” she asked me.



“It’s Facebook,” I said. “It addresses itself to the person looking at it. It may think I care more about Simmons than Harvard, and it’ll show me Simmons first.”



She looked murderous. “There’s got to be a way to fix this.”



Well, if you’re on Facebook, you know that there are very few ways to outfox Facebook.



Anyway, as I said, she passed away. I did not delete her from my Facebook friends, because I like seeing her name come up on my “friends” list. (Three of my seventy Facebook friends are deceased. I refuse to delete them. I like seeing their faces and names on the list. It allows me to pretend that they’re still alive.)



And then, the other day, I saw the following in my Facebook news feed:



LILY posted (five hours ago): I’m on the 6th day of Raspberry ultra drops and have lost 7lbs already, it’s insane! the first 3 days alone I lost over 2lbs. it really is amazing… you gotta check it out!



Dear me. Evidently someone hacked poor Lily’s Facebook account (which was, of course, never deactivated), and is using it to promote Raspberry Ultra Drops, whatever the hell they are.



This is pretty funny, since (as I said) Lily had all of five Facebook friends, and I’m sure all of us were startled to see Lily posting on Facebook from beyond the grave.



But it made me think of George Carlin’s old joke: “If you die while you’re on hold, will the little light on the telephone stop blinking?”



We all have dozens of Internet identities and membership and accounts. What happens to them when we die?  Should I notify Facebook that Lily’s account has been hacked? If I do, will they do anything about it?



And what will your survivors do when you pass away, and suddenly six months later you come back from the dead on Facebook with news about a new weight-loss plan?



Probably it’s worth thinking about.



I love thinking about Lily, floating around in the afterlife, incensed about her Facebook account being hacked. Lily was the soul of propriety.



But I suspect that, wherever she is right now, she’s pretty calm about it.


White trash cookery

white trash cookery

I’ve always known that I’m white trash. It’s a simple calculation: I’m one-half early Twentieth Century European immigrant, one-half American mongrel.



And we White Trash folk know what we like to eat.



And it’s nasty.



Here are a few menu ideas:



–         Make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Or, better yet, store brand. Now add some Velveeta. Or, if you’re really white trash, some Cheese Whiz.

–         You know what’s better than a peanut butter sandwich? A peanut butter sandwich with a slice of bologna on it.

–         Or bananas.

–         Frozen pizza is always better with some ketchup on it.

–         Almost everything is better with crushed potato chips on top.

–         And you know what’s good with everything? Mayonnaise.


But the best recipe of all was given on Saturday Night Live in 1991, when Roseanne Barr portrayed a White Trash mother spontaneously inventing the tuna noodle casserole.



I paraphrase:



“Go next door and borrow some noodles. And then go to the store and get a can of cream of mushroom soup. Don’t get Campbell’s! Get Food Club! It’s cheaper! And I think there’s a can of tuna under my bed. Cook it all together. And don’t forget to save some for me, you little bastard.”



Bon appetit.


Men’s clothing, and magic, and psychometry


Partner and I went recently to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, to see a show about men’s clothing.



Shows likes this – fabric, clothing – usually bore the hell out of me. But this one was amusing, and really memorable. They had one of Mark Twain’s shirts. They had one of Andy Warhol’s terrible shaggy white wigs. They had a dapper trim little tux that had belonged to Fred Astaire, and a very small dress suit belonging to Truman Capote circa 1970. They had a Harris Tweed suit that might or might not have belonged to one of the British royals in the early 20th century.



I was amused and really gratified to see these things. These were garments worn by famous people, and –



Well, and what? Why does that make them special?



Not long ago, a scientist on television showed how people impute mystical properties to things owned by famous people. He showed a group of people a fountain pen that he said had belonged to Albert Einstein, and asked if they wanted to see and hold it, and they all handled it reverently. Then he showed them a sweatshirt and told them it had belonged to Jeffrey Dahmer the serial killer, and asked them if they’d like to handle it or try it on. No one wanted to touch it.



He lied in both cases. The pen didn’t belong to Einstein, and the shirt didn’t belong to Dahmer.



But I understand implicitly what those people felt. We feel instinctively that objects take on the properties and personalities of their possessors. There are even psychics who claim that they have the skill of psychometry: the ability to read the histories of objects and their owners.



I own a Jean Cocteau lithograph – a portrait of Erik Satie – which was once owned by the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. I like to think that I can feel the personalities of all three when I look at it: Cocteau’s imagination and drive, Satie’s whimsy and purity, Shostakovich’s dark humor and power.



I probably can’t feel any such thing.



But I like to think I can.


Movie review: “42nd Street”

42nd street

I think about movies a lot. Well, of course I do: I’m a gay man over fifty. And sometimes I wonder: Is there really such a thing as “the best movie”?



It would need to be Practically Perfect In Every Way: acting, direction, cinematography, dialogue. It would need a cleverly-constructed plot that ends satisfactorily. It would need to leave you feeling profoundly moved – amused, charmed, thoughtful – so that, a week later, you’d still be thinking about it.



As it turns out, there are a number of movies like this (for me, anyway). So: is it “Annie Hall”? “Casablanca”? “Duck Soup”? “The Maltese Falcon”? “Godfather Part II”? “The Lion in Winter?”



I can’t do more than make a list of ten or fifteen that fit all the above criteria: dynamite acting, beautiful direction, a crackerjack plot, sharp dialogue. All of the above fit the bill.



And so does “42nd Street.”



This is a gem from 1933, and it’s easily the best “hey, let’s put on a show!” movie ever made. In short: it’s the Depression, and two amusingly morose Broadway producers are putting together a Broadway show. They hire the mercurially brilliant director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), and the charming leading lady Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels). Dorothy sprains her ankle right before opening night. What will become of the show? Well, thank goodness there’s a plucky young chorus girl (Ruby Keeler) who can take over the part . . .



This sounds corny, but you can’t imagine how much fun it is until you’ve seen it. The dialogue – from eighty years ago – crackles with wit. (My favorite: the chorus performs an awful musical number, and the director screams in agony for them to stop. The musical director runs up front. “Didn’t you like it?” he asks. “Yes!” Warner Baxter screams. “I’ve loved it since 1905!”) The portrayals make me laugh, especially Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel as two sassy chorus girls, Ned Sparks as Morose Producer #1, and Guy Kibbee as a plump millionaire who likes to pat chorus girls on the bum. (The movie was pre-Code. Follow this link if you don’t know what that means. In short, for the rest of you: it means that the moviemakes could do pretty much what they felt like doing without censorship.)



This movie has some of the best musical numbers ever staged. Some of them are staged, remarkably enough, as practice numbers: you’re seeing them as if they’re being practiced for the Big Show. Naturally, you don’t see them in full costume and with full choreography until late in the movie, and then you see the genius of Busby Berkeley in full flower: the naughty hilarity of “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” and the huge (and strangely moving) New York panorama of the title number.



And at the end, we see Warner Baxter the director on the sidewalk listening to departing audience members  talking about the show. They loved it! But why does the director get all the credit? It’s the leading lady that makes the show . . .



It’s a perfect ending.



It’s a perfect movie.


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