Happy birthday to Harry Kondoleon, who would have been 58 today. Sadly, he was a casualty of the AIDS epidemic who died in 1994 at the age of 39. A blazingly original writer and unforgettably eccentric character, he is best-known for such plays as ZERO POSITIVE, CHRISTMAS ON MARS, and SELF TORTURE AND STRENUOUS EXERCISE, as well as his fiction (DIARY OF A LOST BOY). Actors who appeared in premieres of his work include Frances McDormand, David Hyde Pierce, Harriet Harris, Kristine Nielsen, and Michael O’Keefe. You can download a free PDF of his play THE BRIDES here.
Archive for the 'R.I.P.' Category
Larry L. King, who just died at the age of 83, will forever be best-known as the author (co-author, technically) of the Broadway musical-turned-Hollywood-movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I got to interview him in 1979, when Whorehouse launched its post-Broadway tour in Boston. I liked him tremendously and, as a young freelance writer, ate up everything he had to say about his own career as a magazine journalist and book author:
“Writing a book takes about a year and a half, plus to make money to live on you have to meet 14 to 16 magazine deadlines a year. Out of all those, maybe three or four are stories you care about, and the rest you don’t want your friends to read. The timetable is killing, and I’m glad to be out of it. I’m 50 years old, and I figure I’ve hustled enough…
“[In the theater] you work long hours when you’re shaping the work, and there’s the frustration of collaborators. But look at it this way. You write books at home by yourself. You get a bunch of reviews and modest sales. Maybe a handful of letters trickle in, most of them telling you that you misspelled a word on page 39. And then that book is over. It makes you crazy. I actually used to hang around bookstores trying to catch people buying my books. But it’s really a kick to stand in the back of a theater and watch people laugh at something you rote. It’s instant gratification! I can see why people thrive on it.”
You can read the whole interview online here.
My favorite uncle, Fernando “Fred” Abreu, passed away July 25 at his home in Mesa, Arizona. He was my mother’s younger brother — she and he were always quite close, and there was always a lot of affection between our families. He’s the last of his generation to go, having survived all five of his siblings. He left behind his wife Claire and five of their six kids — Kevin, Karlene, Kathy, Karolyn, and Kim, aka “the K gang” (their sister Karen died in 2008).
Fred was a character, very involved with Boy Scouts and community service, and as he got older more and more politically opinionated. After years of no particular communication, he and I reconnected at a family gathering in 1999 and became frequent e-mail correspondents. He liked being able to share his liberal politics with me, because they were not so popular in Arizona or even within his family. When I took a trip to Portugal and decided to make a pilgrimage to Madeira, where his parents met and married, he was thrilled and helped me track down my grandfather’s last residence and his burial place. I think more than anything else, he admired my openness as a gay man and told me stories about his own sexual/romantic past that I don’t think he ever told anyone else in the family. I felt honored to know him and am sad that he’s gone.
I was sad to learn that Jack Fertig died Sunday August 5 of liver cancer at age 57. In recent years most engaged in his astrology practice and activism in support of queer Muslims, Jack is most famous as Sister Boom-Boom, one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence whose public manifestations at political rallies has always been fun, inspired, and inspiring. As Sister Boom-Boom, Jack ran for mayor of San Francisco, and he became a character in Execution of Justice, Emily Mann’s play about the trial of Dan White, who murdered Harvey Milk and George Moscone. (I published the play in my Grove Press anthology Out Front: Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Plays.)
I met Jack in mufti, so to speak, at a head-shaving party in San Francisco in 1992 when I was living in California temporarily. We spent a little time together, and I found him to be a fascinating, complex intellect with a warm dry humor. He had a very straight white-collar job by day, so he had to be able to pull off that form of drag. That meant that all his elaborate tattoos and piercings had to be covered up by work shirt and trousers. He had a gigantic tattoo depicting the astrological chart of the day he got sober — how’s that for commitment to recovery?
Thinking about Ray Bradbury takes me back to my adolescence, when my reading was omnivorous and included lots of Bradbury’s books, which ranged from science-fiction classics (Fahrenheit 451) to sentimental fiction perfectly suited to dreamy teenagers like me (Dandelion Wine). Then at Rice University I got to act in a sweet little one-act play of his, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. I think I played a character named Villanazul.