Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr was a handsome second-string actor who started his career in the late 1940s. He evolved into a movie villain (as in “Rear Window” ), and then a heroic TV actor (as in “Perry Mason,” and later “Ironside”). He was handsome and broad-shouldered, with a deep gruff voice. He gained weight in the 1950s and 1960s, but it gave him gravity.

Also, he was gay.

He met an actor named Robert Benvenides while working on the “Perry Mason” show. They fell in love, and spent the rest of their lives together. Hollywood couldn’t endure this, of course, so the studios created a fiction about marriages and children. (Raymond was married to a woman for a while, back in the 1940s, but it ended in divorce and no children.)

He was reputed to be very generous. IMDB reports the story that Errol Flynn told him that, if he died with ten dollars in his pocket, he wouldn’t have done his job. It inspired him to be philanthropic, and he always helped his friends.

He died in 1992, and Benvenides was his sole heir, but Raymond’s family contested this. They failed, thank goodness.

How times have changed! Look at George Takei! And Neil Patrick Harris! And Ellen de Generes!

Partner and I have talked about marriage. Sadly, we’d end up paying more income tax married than we would as two “single” people. But our mutual employer, Brown University, regards us as Domestic Partners, so we enjoy some advantages that way. Also, we have not found any local institutions that discriminate against us. Lately (with all my health-related adventures) I simply introduce Partner to my doctors and nurses as “my life partner,” and he’s welcomed immediately.

How easy we have it, and how difficult Raymond Burr and his partner Robert Benvenides had it, only twenty years ago.

The world is moving in the right direction.


Barilla pasta, homophobia, and my recipe for faux Fettucine Alfredo


The CEO of Barilla Pasta, last week, made some very angry remarks about gay marriage, and said that he would never allow gay couples to appear in advertisements for his pasta. I paraphrase: “If people don’t like it, they can just buy another brand of pasta.”

Is he seriously out of his mind?

How many brands of pasta are there? I can think of six without stretching my brain too far. I generally buy what’s on sale, or what’s cheap, because – let’s face it – there’s not much difference. De Cecco is excellent (Mia Farrow and I agree on that); if I see it on sale, I buy it immediately, because it’s very certainly better than any other brand.

But is Barilla really better than Prince, or Bertolli, or Buitoni, or store brand, or Ronzoni, or anything else? Not really. Pasta is pasta, and I don’t need to buy pasta from a homophobe.

(Notes: the CEO of Barilla has sort of apologized, now that he’s realized how stupid he was. Also, other brands – like Buitoni and San Remo – have welcomed gay people to eat their pasta. Here’s a recent Buitoni advertisement:)


Now: who wants fettucine Alfredo a la Futureworld?

–         Cook 1 lb pasta (preferably fettucine, but any other pasta will do, so long as it’s not anything made by Barilla) al dente. Drain.

–         While cooking the pasta, mix up the following:

  • ½ – ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T prepared chopped garlic (sold in jars)
  • 2 T dried (or, better yet, fresh) parsley
  • Salt and pepper

–         Add ½ cheese mixture to empty saucepan over medium heat. Stir for a minute or two. Add pasta slowly, still stirring. Add remaining ½ cheese mixture. Taste, and correct salt / pepper / Parmesan / garlic.

–         Enjoy, with warm Italian bread and maybe a little extra Parmesan.

–         (And don’t buy Bertolli.)

Blood types


I have a moderately uncommon blood type: B-positive. Only about 8% of the American population shares it with me. Apollonia has O-positive, which is horribly common; Partner thinks he’s A-positive, which is also moderately frequent.

So I am more special than they are.

There are even rarer types. AB-positive is pretty rare, and as for AB-negative, only one-half of one percent of the American population has that one.

Back in the 1970s, I used to give blood on a regular basis. Why not? I’m a good citizen, and very altruistic.

But then, with the onset of HIV/AIDS, the government changed the rules. Gay men are no longer welcome to give blood in the United States, if we have ever been sexually active.

At all.

O my!

Many countries have changed this rule. In some countries, they ask about how sexually active you’ve been. In the United States, it doesn’t matter. If you’re a man who’s ever had sex with a man, they don’t want you to give blood.

This is a shame, because my B-positive blood is desirable.

It’s also ridiculous, because they test blood now to see if there’s anything dangerous in it, like HIV.

But still they won’t take my blood.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has recently reopened this issue. I applaud her for it.

I want to give blood again.

I’m a B-positive who wants to help. And I’m pretty sure my blood is okay for public consumption.

Movie review: “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)

creature from the black

Creature From the Black Lagoon” came up on Turner Classic Movies not long ago. Apollonia shrieked when I mentioned seeing it. “My favorite horror movie!” she said. “I was so scared when I first saw it!”



For those of you who haven’t seen it: it’s about a group of scientists who go to the Amazon to investigate some odd fossils they’ve found. There appears to be a humanoid creature with webbed appendages living down there. And you know what? There is!



The Creature is pretty tame, looked at from the standpoint of the year 2013. In its own time, however (I rely on Apollonia’s testimony for this), it was terrifying.



Now let’s talk about some of the other stuff going on here.



I don’t know if the director was gay, but the camera dwells upon the half-naked bodies of Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. There are lots of interesting views of the bodies of muscular men – Carlson and Denning, and others – all through the movie.






As I did research on this movie, the best surprise was the man who played the Creature. He was a diver / swimmer named Ricou Browning, and he was very handsome, and very well-built. Here’s a picture of him halfway in costume:


ricou creature

Browning was involved with a lot of water-related productions in Florida, including “Sea Hunt” and “Flipper.” He was a nice guy who was very serious about his underwater adventures.



And he looked good underwater.



Incidentally, the Creature is the only character in the movie who seems really interested in Julie Adams, the female lead. Denning and Carlson seem mostly interested in tussling with one another, and helping one another out of their scuba gear.



(There are lots of books about gay themes in cinema. I think someone needs to add a chapter about “Creature from the Black Lagoon.)





When I started at my current place of work, way back in 1987, I decided early on that I would use a red pen whenever possible. “Red for danger,” I thought.  Also, I remembered all my teachers who’d used red pen to correct, and comment, and chastise. It was my turn to see what it felt like.

Well, it is now almost twenty-five years later, and I keep a whole spectrum of colors of pen at my desk. Red is still my favorite: it stands out, and it’s hard to ignore, and sometimes (as when I’m correcting or amending an employee data document) it is absolutely essential.

But I bought some Flair pens on a whim some time back, and I am now completely enamored with purple.

Purple is rich and royal.  It’s also gay sometimes, depending on whom you ask. (Did you know that the creator of the modern pride flag, Gilbert Baker, assigned meanings to each of the colors? Purple is “spirit.” I like it.) “Lavender” has for a long time been a code word for the gay community.  (For a long time I wore a lavender star on my lapel, and told people it was the symbol for gay rights. One of my gay friends told me that I shouldn’t wear it because it might get people riled up. I laughed. “No one even knows what it means,” I said, and I was right, because – let’s face it – I’d made the meaning up.)

I need to buy some more purple Flair pens. They take me back to my childhood, when Flair pens were new.

And I can tell people it’s a political statement, and they actually believe me!

People: purple is a color, for god’s sake!

Three good things: refrigerator, DOMA, Proposition 8

refrigerator doma prop 8

My poor heart can’t stand it. Three good things happened in one day!



First of all: our old feeble refrigerator got replaced. I wrote a mild email to our landlords two nights ago about how the food in our freezer didn’t seem to be freezing properly, and the landlords replaced the fridge the very next day! And it’s lovely, and they’re lovely people over at the landlord’s office, and we love them and thank them.



Also: the lovely folks in the Supreme Court – five of them, anyway – believe that they should not overturn the California Supreme Court’s rejection of Proposition 8, and as a result, gay marriage is once again legal in the great state of California (as of July 25, 2013, at any rate).



This is nothing to me really, because I’m not a citizen of California. I’m delighted, however, for the gay people who married in California while it was legal, and who are legal again; I’m also delighted for the other gay Californians who can now line up for marriage licenses. And I’m delighted to see one more state added to the illustrious roster of states (including Little Rhody) which have legalized gay marriage.



The third good thing that happened today was this: DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – was found, in essence, unconstitutional.



This is key.



Partner and I have long debated the issue of marriage. We’ve lived together for fourteen years, which makes us married in the eyes of any deity who matters. Rhode Island legalized gay marriage a few months ago – hooray! But would it be of any advantage to us to get married? Not if the federal government doesn’t recognize it. It would have no tax advantages, or estate advantages.



But now, after the Supreme Court’s snappy 5-4 decision, it’s a different story.



Do I hear wedding bells?



Or is it just our new (and more efficient) refrigerator humming?




For years I wore mostly dull colors: gray and brown and blue (especially blue, because it brings out my eyes, tee hee).



Then, some years ago, I made a breakthrough, and I began to wear red shirts, and orange, and yellow, and chartreuse.



Now I love bright colors. I have a marigold-orange shirt, very vivid, and when I wore it a few weeks ago – “ORANGE!” a coworker shrieked. “I look at you, and all I can think of is ORANGE!”



Colors are important. They’re all around us, and we need to appreciate them. This is Pride Month, after all, with a flag that looks like this:




The colors have meanings: red is life, orange is healing, yellow is sunlight, green is nature, blue is harmony, and purple is spirit.


(The original flag included pink for sexuality and turquoise for magic/art. I wish they were still included.)


To quote Vampire Weekend:


Did you stay up

To see the dawn

In the colors

Of Benetton?



I love that song. It’s full of life and art and magic and sunlight and spirituality. Let’s hear it:





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.

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz

I have been a semi-regular viewer of a Sunday morning CNN show called “Reliable Sources.” Its topic is not so much the news itself as the way news is covered. Its participants, led by journalist / moderator Howard Kurtz, discuss tone, and thoroughness of coverage, and whether one story is being overdone while others are being forgotten. The show is generally merciless when it comes to bad journalism; you can argue legitimately over how many minutes to give a news story, but there’s generally no argument that a bad story – unchecked, inaccurate – is bad journalism perpetrated by bad journalists.

I was startled this last Sunday morning to see Howard Kurtz himself sweating under the lights on his own show.

The story goes like this: Kurtz published a story in which he accused Jason Collins (the pro basketball player who just came out as gay) of covering up the fact that he’d been engaged to a woman. This was false; Collins had mentioned the engagement right up front. When Kurtz was called on this, he grudgingly acknowledged his error, but claimed that Collins hadn’t talked about it very much, which was also untrue. End result: Kurtz has now left two of his jobs, at the Daily Beast and at Newsweek.

Where to begin?:

–         Kurtz got the story wrong, and obviously didn’t bother to fact-check himself. The Collins interview wasn’t all that lengthy, so he must have given it the most cursory read possible. He would have crucified any other journalist who did this.

–         He claimed that Collins’s “plotline” had been “muddied” by the fact that he’d had a relationship with a woman. Plotline? Life don’t got no plotline.

–         He seemed startled and outraged that a gay man might be involved with a woman, as if this threw doubt on Collins’s whole story.

–         Apparently he’s made several other slips over the past year or two, mostly involving misattribution of quotations. He attributes all of his slips to working too hard. Also, according to him, everyone knows how much he’s always believed in the ideals of good journalism.

–         He has for the past few years been working for his own news outlet, the Daily Download. His business partner Lauren Ashford has been a guest on “Reliable Sources” on several occasions, but he has never disclosed their business relationship on the show.

Well, he was in full Mea Culpa mode on Sunday. Some of the questions being thrown at him were pretty harsh, but his answers were incredibly ingenuous – as in “working too hard” and “always been devoted to good journalism.”


Mistah Kurtz, he dead.



A childhood friend of Partner’s passed away recently. We went to the wake.



I’d met a lot of the people before, as a brother of the deceased had passed away some years ago, and we’d gone to that wake too. But I was amazed that everyone seemed to remember me. “Are you kidding?” Partner said later. “Of course they remembered you. We were the talk of the place the first time. We were the only gay couple there.”



The deceased was in his coffin, looking as if he’d just drowsed off. His daughter told us: “We made sure he was wearing his casual clothes. We wanted him to be comfortable.” Partner touched his arm as we knelt by the coffin, to say goodbye. A few weeks before, when we’d visited him, the deceased told Partner: “You were my first friend.” I thought that was an extraordinarily wonderful thing to say to someone.



The family (there were five living siblings, and some spouses, and children, and cousins) were all very warm, and glad to see Partner, and very nice to me. The funeral home was full of laughter: people reminiscing, people telling stories (about the deceased and about all kinds of other things), people reconnecting with one another.



“We never see each other except at funerals!” people say.



Ain’t it the truth.



Wakes and funerals always make me realize how important my friends are.



Have you said hello to your friends lately? Email, snail mail, Facebook, telephone?



Get on it.



Life is shorter than you think.


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