Sunday, August 23, 2015

LGBT Movie Review: Gun Hill Road



Synopsis:

After three years in prison, Enrique (Esai Morales) returns home to the Bronx to find the world he knew has changed. His wife, Angela (Judy Reyes), struggles to hide an emotional affair, and his teenage son, Michael (Harmony Santana), explores a sexual transformation well beyond Enrique's grasp and understanding. Unable to accept his child, Enrique clings to his masculine ideals while Angela attempts to hold the family together by protecting Michael. Still under the watchful eye of his parole officer (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), Enrique must become the father he needs to be or, once again, risk losing his family and freedom. Can a father's fierce love for his family overcome his street-hardened ideas about manhood and end the vicious cycle controlling his life?

My Review:

This debut film by writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green is absolutely stunning. This is by far one of the most raw, poignant, and true-to-life transgender films I've ever seen. Not to sound too partial since Harmony Santana has been a friend of mine for years, but this is the film where people took notice of her talent, and it's here where it truly shines in all its honesty and beauty. Nothing about her performance is subtle - it's pretty real. Harmony brought me to tears (and I rarely cry at movies). Where most movies centered around trans characters and their families rely on stereotypes, this one doesn't. And where most trans films also have it where the plot hinges entirely on the character's gender identity, this one focuses more on the family dynamic between a father unwilling to accept that his child is transgender. And it's pretty heavy. You can feel for Enrique's struggle for acceptance as much as you feel for Michael and her plight at taking each day at a time to become the person that she knows she is at heart. This isn't one of those movies that will spoon feed answers to you - it will make you cry and feel as it will ultimately make you think.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie

Lately, I've been having a fabulous time reading non-fiction of people that I adore. I just finished this one that's centered on the interviews of one of my most favorite people, David Bowie!


Obviously, if you're reading a book like this, you're one hardcore David Bowie fan. Many of these interviews are so well known that they are iconic and have essentially catapulted the career of a man who's more than just music, but who has changed the face of it with every chameleon-like transformation that he makes. David is also an underdog: not everything he has done has wowed the world. Many of his records are hit and miss, but no one can say that the man isn't surprising and boring. Even in his musical failures and flops during the mid-to-late '80's, David Bowie still tops. Every interview is chronological, starting from 1969 with New Musical Express (UK) to his last and final interview where he'd hint of abandoning the press for good in 2003 with The Word (UK).

What's most intriguing and fascinating about these interviews is how much they feel as if they aren't actually interviews, but simply David and a lucky reporter hanging out and having a chat about life, the universe, politics, art, literature, and of course, David's latest project. As many reporters have stated over the years, David is of course DAVID BOWIE, but sitting down with him is like sitting down with an old friend. David's wit, honesty, sense of humor, and intelligence just oozes off the pages as if you're in that interviewee chair with David. With every interview, it gives us a blast to the past through every one of David's album eras from Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Young Americans, Station to Station, Heroes, Lodger, and oh so many more. Also as cool is to see how with each album era, there's a new essence to Bowie, of a man who gets wittier, funnier, more well-read, more honest, and jaded with time, and that's what makes reading these interviews so compelling. David has never done one bad interview, and none of them haven't damaged his career one bit. With exception to two interviews that maybe weren't the most exciting or where I felt that the writing was kind of annoying, I loved all the thirty. I'll choose my top 5 interviews from here that I felt were the most impressive and fascinating (the pg. number is where you can find these interviews in Bowie on Bowie if you want to take a quick looksee at them):

"One Day, Son, All This Could Be Yours...."

Steve Sutherland, March 20 and 27, 1993, New Musical Express (UK), pg. 207

Of all David Bowie interviews, this is the first and perhaps only one where he serves us the most in-depth exploration of what gay and bisexual themes mean to him. My favorite lines of his are:

"When I was going through my bisexual stage in the early 70's, and then it became apparent to me eventually that I was heterosexual."

 "I found out I wasn't truly a bisexual but I loved the flirtation with it, I enjoyed the excitement of being involved in an area that, up until that particular time, had been perceived as a social taboo."

And I don't quite remember if it was this interview or in another, but David used the term "closeted heterosexual" to describe himself at that time period. Closeted heterosexual? How often do you here that phrase? I find that so amazing and so honest! This interview is so meaty and chock full of other rarities that David hardly ever talked about but does here: about his mentally unstable half-brother, Terry, who committed suicide in 1985. This is one of the longest interviews in the book, but it's absolutely the best, so in-depth and rich with so many topics shared between David and Steve.

Station to Station


David Sinclair, June 10, 1993, Rolling Stone (USA), pg. 231

This one is very cool, bittersweet, kind of eerie, but a whole lot of fun - not just for the reader, but for David and David! Bowie takes Sinclair on a "memory tour" of London where they visit David's past, of places that no longer exist or have been abandoned (like, for instance, Trident Studios). Throughout the memory tour, David reflects on the glam rock era ("I don't think it was clear what exactly it was at the time. But it took us over rather than us taking it over"), the scene of that era ("It's a bit disappointing in some respects to look back, because there was actually no 'scene' as such in the early Seventies in London"), some of the places where he used to perform in the 1960's, like the Marquee Club ("I played here a lot in the 1960s, always as a support act"), and life after Ziggy ("It was work, work, work...."), and reflecting on him ("To this day I'm really not sure if I was playing Ziggy or if Ziggy was exaggerated aspects of my own personality. A fair amount of psychological baggage was undoubtedly coming out through the character. Because I felt awkward and nervous and inadequate with myself, it felt easier to be somebody else.") And an adorable highlight was him talking about Iman with the mention of Black Tie White Noise, recorded post-wedded bliss:

"I'd never been out with a model before so I hadn't even bargained on the cliche of the rock star and the model as being part of my life. So I was well surprised to meet one who was devastatingly wonderful and not the usual sort of bubblehead that I'd met in the past. I make no bones about it. I was naming the children the night we met. I knew that she was for me, it was absolutely immediate. I just fell under her spell. Our romance was conducted in a very gentlemanly fashion, I hope, for quite some time. Lots of being led to doorways and polite kisses on the cheek. Flowers and chocolates and the whole thing. I knew it was precious from the first night, and I just didn't want anything to spoil it."

There's so much more to this interview, and basically, it can be summed up in David Bowie's own words:

"It was quite extraordinary, despite the fact that most of the things I went to see were either closed or pulled down. It puts into focus just how much time has passed...it really was a long, long time ago."

Fashion: Turn to the Left.
Fashion: Turn to the Right.


David Bowie and Alexander McQueen, November 1996, Dazed and Confused (UK), pg. 291


Two royalties of fashion unite together for a phone interview, David interviewing Alexander McQueen! This is more about Alexander McQueen than it is about David, but both their personalities jump out here, and it's not only so adorable, but pretty brilliantly hilarious. What a comical duo and like-minded spirits - it's no wonder they collaborated together (even though they never met)!

DB: Are you gay and do you take drugs? (laughter)

AM: Yes, to both of them! (more laughter)

DB: Do you think of clothes themselves as being a way of torturing society?

AM: I don't put such an importance on clothes, anyway. I mean at the end of the day they are, after all, just clothes and I can't cure the world of illness with clothes. I just try to make the person that's wearing them feel more confident in themselves because I am so unconfideent. I'm very insecure as a person."

DB: Could you design a car?

AM: Could I? It would be as flat as an envelope if I designed a car.

A Star Comes Back to Earth  


Mick Brown, December 14, 1996, Telegraph Magazine (UK), pg. 304
 

Here, David Bowie with Mick gives us touching accounts, like -

His relationship with John Lennon:

"I loved John. I remember asking him once what he thought of glam rock and he said - It's just fooking rock and roll with lipstick."

Being his characters (Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke):

"As long as you're really in control of the image, as a painter is, for instance. But when you're using yourself as the image that you're trying to project as a character, so it becomes a hybrid of reality and fantasy...then the awareness that that's not the real you, and you're uncomfortable having to pretend that it is, makes you withdraw. And I withdrew, obviously through the use of drugs, as well, which didn't help."

His drug problem:

"I blew my nose one day in California and half my brains came out."

In a cafe with his head in a plate, David cried "Please help me." "I was in a serious decline, emotionally and socially."

And, of course, his marriage to Iman:

"I was actually beginning to find my life really pleasurable, and I just wanted to share it with someone. And one person was all I wanted. When I met Iman, it was just so instantaneous. It was really one of those overnight things. In fact, it was so overnight we knew we should wait a couple of years before we got married, to make sure we weren't kidding ourselves. And fortunately we weren't. It's just been such a joy."

D'aww!

"Now Where Did I Put Those Tunes?" 


David Quantick, October 1999, Q (UK), pg. 341


This one was in promotion of Hours, where he talks plenty about that, but a lot of this interview is where David looks back and kind of reads his contemporaries.

What he said about Bing Crosby (seriously, THIS is hilarious):

David Quantick: Can you remember what you were thinking when you did it? (Little Drummer Boy)

David Bowie: Yes. I was wondering if he was still alive. He was just...not there. He was no there at all. He had the words in front of him. "Hi, Dave, nice to see ya here...." And he looked like a little old orange sitting on a stool. 'Cos he'd been made up very heavily and his skin was a bit pitted, and there was just nobody home at all, you know? It was the most bizarre experience. I didn't know anything about him. I just knew my mother liked him..."

About Sly Stone (another hilarious moment!):

"I remember being over a dealer's one night when Sly Stone walked in. He walked in and looked at me and he said "Huh! Bet he takes a lot of drugs." I was angry because I did take a lot of drugs! "How are you! I'm David Bowie! I do more drugs than you've looked at!" It was funny, it was hilarious. We met each other a long time after that and laughed about that."

About Ricky Martin (ouch?):

"Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get away from Ricky Martin..."

After David Q. says how Ricky Martin mentions him "favorably in interviews," Bowie makes "a weird noise." "Arhh...I know! That's why I'll be careful here. I don't know. I keep seeing him on the telley and he's on the radio and stuff like that. Um. He's not irritating in the way some people are, I'm just aware of his presence....am I getting out of this? Ha ha ha ha!"


These 5 interviews were a trip, weren't they?

Remarkable most of all about each and every interview is how they are as eclectic as the man himself. Whether David is talking about his past, films, literature, art, his hobbies, his projects, acting, music, his son (Joe), his wife (Iman), politics, mental illness, death, the afterlife, spirituality, history, fashion, and this list can go on, as what he's famous for, he's always a step ahead into the future. It's no surprise that nowadays, David does NOT talk to press, not even when he was on the heels of releasing his first album in a decade in 2013, The Next Day. As Sean Egan puts so perfectly:

"Bowie discovered something which previously had not occurred to him: although he enjoyed talking about himself and his art, he didn't need to."

And as Sean also puts succinctly in his introduction:

"Whatever the renown of the magazine, newspaper, or website, Bowie - the first artist to consistently employ the act of interviews as a means of artistic expression in itself - provides great copy in all."


Sunday, August 16, 2015

An Evening With Yoko Ono

Last night, I went to my first Yoko Ono show at perhaps what has to be the smallest venue that any artist could have: in a museum (at the Museum of Modern Art), in a movie theater that seats only 200 people. 200 seats and yet the theater felt even smaller than that. Not surprisingly, with this venue being so small, tickets were sold out for both of Yoko's shows in only a matter of a few hours! As soon as I heard about her performing at MoMA from Facebook, I had to get a ticket as soon as possible! I did, of course, and I don't regret what was truly one special, unique concert experience.

Like Yoko said so herself, a movie theater is not exactly "a concert place." Like she also said so sweet and proudly after the show, "but we did it!" And she certainly did it, blowing my mind, truly.



(Photos taken by: Scott Rudd)

What made the intimacy of such a quiet, small place even better for a concert like Yoko's was that no filming and photography was allowed, except ones taken by a professional photographer, naturally. I'm one of those people that's pretty old school. I do not believe in taking photos or filming during a concert. Not only is it distracting and rude, but it takes away the focus of enjoying the moment, where people are too eager at capturing a past instead of just capturing the present and having fun.

Needless to say, Yoko is one of those unique and rare artists, easily misunderstood as she is easily loveable. In person, she's very short, small, and petite, but can she ever howl, sing, shout, and perform. It was incredible, she was phenomenal. Yoko performed a riveting, 11-song setlist:

1. Jazz #1 (improvisation)
2. (Unknown) poem: "you stoned me..."
3. Rising
4. Will I
5. (Unknown) poem: "I heard you saying..."
6. Jazz #2 (improvisation)
7. Take Me To The Land of Hell
8. (Unknown) poem: "go back..."
9. Higa Noboru
10. Jazz #3 (improvisation)
11. (Unknown) poem: "Your winter face"

Backing her was Denardo Coleman on drums, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Alan Licht on guitar.  This "flexible lineup" that makes up the Plastic Ono Band: they ROCKED. In the very spirit of the Plastic Ono Band where it's "a band that would never exist..." it was evident by the performance that Yoko and the band planned ahead and rehearsed to put on a smashing show, and yet, it was freeform enough to where it seemed like at times even the band didn't know what Yoko was going to do next. Jokingly, or maybe he wasn't joking, Klaus Biesenbach said in introduction to Yoko Ono that he had no idea what was in store that night, that he was going to be as surprised as the audience would be. There were no surprises, like, Yoko didn't do any crazy stunts or anything like that, just her being her kooky, adorable self. I loved how for Jazz #1, after that intense performance, she said "That was only the intro!" Or other parts of the show, like with Will I, after the song, she'll say "Okay that's it." I can't help but say this over and over about Yoko, but she's ADORABLE, and so comfortable in her skin. She was wearing this cute black blouse that was sheer at the sleeves and black pants, wide-brimmed hat, very casual which was pretty acceptable for such a laid-back and intimate concert venue. It was more jazz orientated than rock and roll, and that was what I loved about the show too. The audience, all fans of course, loved every second of it. Yoko got a standing ovation, and I loved when her jaw dropped and she chirped "Oh my God!" If there was only flaw to the show, was that it was too short, only a little over an hour, but it was the best over an hour that one could spend. And it was with Yoko, where it's impossible to be bored by such a zany, artistic, universe-centered talented woman.

Aside from me meeting Yoko herself, I also met her friend, famed rock and roll photographer who has shot everyone from David Bowie, Elton John, Debbie Harry, etc., the sweet and lovely Bob Gruen!


He's most famous for being John Lennon's personal photographer, and for taking this photo:


And also known for taking some of these legendary shots (some of my favorites):


We sat next to each other at the front row of the show. He was a delight to talk to, glad I met Bob and his wife. It was also nice meeting Klaus, even though honestly, I find him quite cold and intimidating, but naturally, how could one not thank him for what he did for Yoko Ono's One Woman Show exhibit and for all that he does that makes MoMA the great museum that it is, one of NYC's greatest.

I heard that Yoko might perform at MoMA again before her exhibit closes. I'd see her again in a heartbeat. Yoko is not only one wild, amazing performer, but truly, such a total sweetie who did before the lucky and privileged 200 of us what Yoko Ono does best: being entirely herself.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August in Review

I can't believe that summer is winding down to a close, slowly but surely. I must say, this has been the fastest summer ever! Even though I've been kind of quiet on here, I've actually been doing A LOT.

Valves & Vixens 2 is FINALLY released. This one has my M/M/F/F/F dollification/human doll short story, "Be My Doll." This was one of my first steampunk/sci-fi-ish pieces that I've ever done. I'm fond of it, and hope some of y'all will enjoy it and this anthology in general:


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B012XZK7UM/ref=cm_sw_su_dp



:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B012XZK7UM/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-valvesvixensvolume2-1859608-356.html



: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-valvesvixensvolume2-1859608-356.html






I can't yet announce the acquisitions of that 1970's glam rock romance novel that so many of you have been waiting for, but that announcement should be soon. As soon as I get the green light from my new publisher (which I'm excited to announce that too!), I can finally spread the news. In the meantime, I will say, there IS an official final cover of it, and I'm done with my round of edits. Not sure when, but soon, I should be working with my editor on it sometime around late-Fall or so. And I've been quietly diving back into the sequel, rewriting most of it, and...it's becoming quite a journey so far. I won't say anything else about that one (just too soon to divulge), but I will say, for this first book, I'm beyond excited and can't wait for this to FINALLY be out in the world. But for now, it's still the waiting game for you (not so much for me anymore, hehe, whew!). I promise that the wait will be worth it!


In the meantime, this is what I'll have to look forward to for August, so far:

This week I'll be seeing one of my favorite queens, the Werqin Gurl herself, Shangela, at the Laurie Beechman Theater for her Country Fried Fish show. I've seen Shangela live so many times now that she knows me when she sees me hahaha, and we have a pretty nice Facebook relationship too.


I'll be hanging out with some friends that I haven't seen in a LONG time. It will be like a family reunion.

And lastly, on August 14th, I'll be seeing the unique, original, one of a kind Yoko Ono at one of my favorite museums in New York City, well, MoMA of course!

(This pic below is her posing with her newest piece, To Touch The Sky, at her MoMA exhibit). 


Needless to say, I'll be spending all day at MoMA to check out her exhibit again (must have seen it about 5 times now), and to probably visit Andy Warhol again, and so many more of my favorites, before I see this awesome lady rock on live at the museum's theater room.

And lastly (I promise this is lastly), I've been watching Caitlyn Jenner's docu-series, I Am Cait. I am still truly in awe of how Caitlyn has used this platform to not only talk about herself, her transition, and her journey, but to bring less privileged trans adults and trans youth into the spotlight to showcase what the trans experience is all about in its many diversities and uniqueness. And I also love how Cait is spotlighting important issues that greatly affect the community, like homelessness, suicide, murder, bullying, lack of employment, and that list can go on. And her website is also as fabulous. Look at all these resources that she has listed. And people say that she's not cut out to be a representative (the one of many) of the trans community:

http://caitlynjenner.com/resources/

I'm not too surprised that so many are against Cait BECAUSE she's part of the Kardashian clan and because she's rich and famous. I can understand the Kardashian thing (personally, I have nothing against them. They seem like a normal family to me), but you know, Cait's not the ONLY rich, high-profile trans celebrity who's making bank through TV shows, interviews, books, appearances, etc. (hello, there's Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Chaz Bono, etc.) and ONLY Cait is called the "attention whore" for it. And all those naysayers and doubters aren't actually watching the show(s) and reading the interviews, and yet they feel so confident that she's doing so much wrong by the community, based on no research or effort done on their part to get to know Cait and to see, read, and watch what she's doing. Anyway, there's my rant about that. I Am Cait is a WONDERFUL docu-series. I highly recommend it!


Other trans docu-series (two of them, on mainstream/national TV!) that are worth watching are Becoming Us on ABC Family and Jazz Jenning's I Am Jazz on TLC.


The fact that we have not one, not two, but THREE trans docu-series on basic cable these days is pretty phenomenal and groundbreaking. I can go on, and on, and on, about how PROUD I am to be trans in this day and age where we're so visible to the world now. Naturally, of course, there's still A LOT of exclusion within the community and not enough visibility of intersex people like me (for example), and also non-binary/gender non-conforming trans people (like me), but...baby steps, but these are giant leaps! One day, I have a feeling that trans people from all different types of "other" genders will have their day and be visible in a world that's slowly but surely more embracing.

Until then, I'm enjoying this groundbreaking moments. 2015 - what a year!