Archive for June, 2012

Quote of the day: MARRIAGE

June 24, 2012


What’s the secret to a long marriage? You don’t get divorced.

— Olivia Harrison

Photo diary: the week in review

June 19, 2012

It was a beautiful week to ramble around Central Park.

Andy and I sat in line for 2 1/2 hours to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park Saturday night. Nearby, a team of triathletes conducted their regular training, doing chin-ups and practicing their balance along the fence rails. Alas, this show turned out to be much more edifying than Daniel Sullivan’s production of AS YOU LIKE IT, which was so unengaging that we left at intermission. Surprisingly nice musical score by Steve Martin, though, played by terrific musicians (including Tony Trischka and Jordan Tice).

my new favorite beverage — it also comes in grapefruit and blood orange flavors

Sunday afternoon we took part in the Silent March to End Stop and Frisk, intended to put pressure on Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD to end a policy that amounts to selective harassment of young men of color.

We met up with my demo buddies Jonathan Lerner and Mike Spiegel, along with Mike’s wife Sheila and their daughter Ruby, on 110th Street.

Silence once we got to Fifth Avenue was definitely the best part of the march — no crappy rap bands, no inane speeches, no throat-ravaging chants.

The turnout reflected the great diversity of New York culture — all ages and colors, Grannies for Peace, folks in wheelchairs, lots of unions (nurses, UAW, writers), a substantial queer contingent, and of course Occu-pup.

Since the march ended at 78th Street, that meant walking home down Madison Avenue — a whole other New York culture.

Quote of the day: MARRIAGE

June 19, 2012


It’s so easy to point a finger and to ask, How could I, as a loving mother, have let my eighteen-year-old daughter, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, marry Osama bin Laden in 2000? Well, all I can say is she wasn’t getting any younger.

Maybe I wasn’t the best role model, because, after all, as a teen-ager, I went to my prom with Idi Amin. Of course, nowadays everyone remembers Idi only as a demented homicidal despot, but back then he was just a kid in a powder-blue tux, offering me a lovely corsage, which I thought was the sweetest gesture until I realized that it was made from a human hand. But Idi had such a crush on me and we ruled triumphantly as Prom King and Queen, after the other, elected couple disappeared; I was also voted Most Popular, Nicest, and Most Likely to Own a Slave.

The women in my family have always been attracted to powerful men. I once asked my grandmother if it was true about her and Hitler, and she got all misty-eyed and murmured, “That was a very long time ago, before the little mustache. But we had the best time together, taking long walks, doing watercolors, and talking late into the night about how someday he would rename Poland in my honor and call it My Really Pretty Girlfriend. He was such a puppy dog, but I have to be honest, when it came to writing me love poetry he was no Josef Stalin.”

My sister was in fact preëngaged to Saddam Hussein, and I hate to say this but she did once tell him, “I can’t marry you until you give me a diamond, a condo, and a nuclear warhead.” Things almost worked out until the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam went on the lam, and my sister threw up her hands and began seeing Kim Jong-il. “I’m sorry,” she told Saddam in an e-mail, “but I need some stability.” Personally, I always thought that Kim looked like a chubby flight attendant for a budget airline, but as my sister explained, “Every morning, he makes the entire Army chant, ‘We love our Supreme Leader and his fiancée is so hot!’ ”

When Amal first started getting serious about Osama, I cautioned her, saying, “But he already has two wives,” to which she replied, “You mean two fat wives.” As a teen-ager, Amal had covered her walls with posters of Fidel Castro, Manuel Noriega, and Justin Timberlake, because, as Amal put it, “Justin is the tyrant of all media.” We would watch “Friends” together, but when I swooned over David Schwimmer, Amal scoffed, “Sure, he’s cute, but where are his ruthless bodyguards?” My mother’s favorite program was “The Golden Girls,” because it portrayed an ideal fundamentalist household, starring, as my mom would sigh, “that handsome Bea Arthur and his many devoted concubines.”

When Amal began thinking about marrying Osama I begged her to keep her options open and so she began dating Muammar Qaddafi. I was wary of Muammar because, with his curly dyed-black hair and his glittery wardrobe, he reminded me of a storefront psychic. But Amal insisted that, when it was just the two of them, hiding out from rebel forces in a culvert, he could be quite the charmer and that sometimes he’d let her shoot coffee cans with his solid-gold revolver. “It was so romantic,” she confided. “I felt like Lynne Cheney!”

But the heart wants what it wants, and Amal eventually returned to Osama. Her bridal shower was a dream and Amal received Kevlar lingerie, some racy photos of women driving, and a gag apron printed with the phrase “Tell your other wives to cook.” On her wedding night, Amal wondered aloud, “Do you think that I’ll ever get to meet him in person?” But a few weeks later she was flown to an undisclosed location and at last began her married life. I felt just like Kris Jenner, the mother of all those Kardashian girls. I recently contacted Kris and I asked her, “When your daughter Kim made so many mistakes and the entire world turned against her, what did you do?” And Kris responded, with so much warmth and wisdom, “All the morning shows.”

— Paul Rudnick

In this week’s New Yorker

June 19, 2012

Top stories this week for me start with Ezra Klein’s “Unpopular Mandate,” which traces all the ways that former Republican legislative policies have gotten demonized and trashed as soon as bipartisan support for them showed up, thereby making it entirely likely that Obama’s Affordable Health Care legislation will be reversed by the Supreme Court. Pretty sickening.

I have almost no interest in television or Hollywood movies, yet I often find myself reading every word of New Yorker profiles, such as Tad Friend’s long story about Ben Stiller (or last week’s long report on Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy). It shocks me that Stiller is seen as the world’s biggest comedic movie stars simply because he has acted in three billion-dollar “franchises” (movies and their sequels). Madagascar? Night at the Museum? Meet the Parents? This is what sells? Okay….

Among the reviews, James Wood writes about an intriguing young Canadian writer named Sheila Heti and Jill Lepore digests some choice chaotic biographical details David Maraniss unearthed in his book on Barack Obama.  Sasha Frere-Jones makes new albums by Norah Jones and Fiona Apple sound mouth-watering. Plus, you know, Gayle Kabaker’s sweet cover illustration (see above).

Before the moment passes, I want to tag as recommended reading the always-scrupulous Jane Mayer’s terrific “Letter from Tupelo” about Bryan Fischer, a raving lunatic radio preacher from Mississippi who represents the kind of crackpots that Mitt Romney Republicans cater to these days. Fischer was the one whose homophobic railings about Romney hiring an openly gay press secretary, driven by insane 1950s stereotypes about homosexual blackmail, hounded the guy out of his job. One more creep to keep an eye on this electoral season. It will be full-time work to keep calling a creep a creep as the money of the Koch Brothers continues to steamroll the American public with lies and propaganda.

From the deep archives: Performance Diary 9/2/84

June 13, 2012

September 2 – Last night Stephen and I went to see Jeff Weiss at the Performing Garage. Harry Kondoleon joined us, along with Patricia Benoit and her German boyfriend Mark. I gave Harry a tape I’d just finished making for him with many songs he’d requested (Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life,” Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop,” “99 ½,” etc. – he ever so casually asked for things to be in a certain order, which I always take to be firm requests, Harry knows exactly the way he wants things but is a little embarrassed by the force of his will and tries to disguise or downplay it). The running refrain on the tape is Bette Davis saying “She liked it,” from Baby Jane. I called the tape “Labor Day Request Concert.” Harry told me that once he was listening to one of my tapes are rehearsal for The Fairy Garden and John Glover grabbed the Walkman and said, “What are you listening to?” It was just then that the tape was going from the Butthole Surfers (“There’s a time to shit and a time to pray…”) to Frank Sinatra singing with children. John Glover gave it back with a look of horror – Harry was secretly glad to counter Glover’s aggressiveness with something shocking, but he realized the weirdness of him sitting in rehearsal placidly listening to these insane juxtapositions.

Andy Jackness’s set for Harry Kondoleon’s play THE FAIRY GARDEN at the Second Stage Theatre

Jeff Weiss’s show was pretty crazy, too – another version of And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, this time acted out by a full cast (the first time we saw this, he did all the parts himself – I remember that night vividly, also at the Garage, Tom Waits was there looking autistic), including several Wooster Group people, plus a bunch of really hunky actors, including an amazingly tall (possibly seven-foot) actor named Sturgis Warner who made me dizzy just to look at him, gorgeous, muscular, handsome in a Peter Evans sort of way. The show was a sort of detective caper, with Ron Vawter as a detective tracking down the Finnish gymnast who’s been killing people – of course it’s Connie Gerhardt (Jeff Weiss) imitating a Finnish gymnast. The sick thing about the story is that everyone starts imitating Connie’s pickup lines – the detective acts them out with his teenage songs in grab-ass sessions in the garage. (More kissing, wrestling, and groping – all gay – in this show that any I can remember.) The underlying story was the pathology and tragedy of real actors, with so many personalities trapped inside them – also the personal tragedy for Jeff Weiss of aging, of having worshiped youthful physique and maintaining it unnaturally into his 50s, now crumbling and sweating out time. The most moving, chilling, also bathetic moment was a scene on a bus after a wrestling match when Connie is thinking aloud to a young wrestler (actually his own son, long ago conceived with a lesbian so they could get welfare, named Narcissus) and begging him to run away with him and love him.

Jeff Weiss and Sturgis Warner

At intermission we stood out on the street. A rather bizarre homely straight couple stood against the wall making out and playfully imitating the pickup lines from the play. Three people passing by picked their way through the crowd on the sidewalk and one guy said, “This is like theater in the live.” We chatted a little with Patrick Merla, who was in the audience. He has crossed eyes, very disconcerting to deal with, and an incredibly queeny voice but in some ways he looks very charismatic with his leonine mane and grand manner. While talking to us, he waved at someone and imperiously called, “Come over here.” It was Keith McDermott, a former boyfriend of Edmund White’s who was in the show.

Jeff Weiss reminded me a little of James Leo Herlihy, whom I finally met when Stephen and I went to dinner with him, Joe Frazier, and John Tveit (Joe’s organist friend) in San Francisco. I was surprised to find that I liked Jamie a lot – perhaps because unlike most famous people he didn’t simply grab center stage and hold forth – he was very solicitous and personable. We quickly got into a conversation about altering sex habits to avoid AIDS. He confided that what he loved doing more than anything in the world was sucking cocks, and he’d decided not to do it so often and not to swallow cum anymore. He said whenever the possibility of sex arises, he always finds an excuse to go to the bathroom or be alone for a few minutes to ask himself if this encounter is really worth it – worth the emotional effort as well as possible health risk, or is it just a meaningless impulse – and he finds himself deciding against it more often than in the past. He recently sat by and watched his mother died from cancer, and his roommate/boyfriend in LA has AIDS.

Tallulah Bankhead and James Leo Herlihy

Jamie had a little notebook which he kept taking out to jot down felicitous phrases, even though Stephen says he’s given up writing. He was very impressed (and a little envious) to hear that I’d written my Shepard biography in six weeks while recovering from hepatitis. He loves Sam Shepard, loves movie-star bios. I told him the story Bill Kleb told me about Shepard peeing in a prop toilet during class, and Jamie insisted that I put it in the book – otherwise I would be doing a disservice. “This book is in part a love letter,” he said, “telling Sam Shepard you’re fascinating, you’re talented, you’re pretty, and so on. But it’s also a mirror – you have to say ‘And then there’s this!’ Stars want you to do that.” He said it’s demeaning to be “nice” in one’s writing. He quoted Tolstoy saying “The two things a writer needs are a dirty mind and a good sense of gossip.” He was very encouraging and flirtatious without being overbearing. He described his ass as looking like “a pair of used tea bags.” His second play Crazy October, which he ended up directing, starred Tallulah Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, and Joan Blondell – how unimaginable!

Three pictures of me taken within the space of three weeks in 1984

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