Category Archives: Culture

Fellow Travelers

Ft_invite_frontMark Thompson’s "Fellow Travelers"
exhibit now at the Center in New York!

For those of you who live in or near New York City, we wanted to give a
heads up announcement about this exhibit sponsored by White Crane Institute in collaboration with the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center: Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits by our good friend, Mark Thompson.

Ft_invite_back_1The show went up March 26th and has received an enthusiastic reception.  If you haven’t been out to see this inspiring exhibit time is running out so get there while you still can.

We’re also happy to announce that Mark will be attending the closing reception next week on April 26th.

We hope to see you there.


When I was growing up I would have given anything to have had a relative who might have been, could have been…not discussed. That "funny uncle" whose name would immediately elicit a change of subject. I would have beat a path to his door and demanded answers, guidance…the protection only family can offer. Instead, as soon as I was able, I high-tailed it to the West Coast (I’d always had crushes on surfers) and San Francisco, under the pretense of accepting a "job opportunity." Somehow  I managed to survive the early 70s in S.F.and find a semblance of "Gay identity" in the process without succumbing to drugs and the street. Many of us are not so lucky, and every time I see a news story about some young person’s suicide, my first supposition is "Gay."

Uncle This, of course, is an oft-told tale. Escape from the middle west, the deep south, the constraints of whoever you are, wherever you grew up to a place where anonymity promises opportunity to define self. Gay self. This is the basis of a new play by playwright Dean Gray, Uncle, playing for a maddingly brief run at the ArcLight Theater on the Upper West Side in NYC. Gray’s name may be famliar to some readers as the playwright behind the adaptation of Will Fellows’ fine anthology of oral histories titled Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest. Fellows has gone on to write Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture. While Uncle is not another Fellows-based piece it is in the same vein…midwest roots.

Uncle is fine piece of stage work by a talented playwright who readily admits to putting much of himself up there on the stage. The protagonist, Brent (played handsomely by Brian Patacca) is from rural Wisconsin. Now living in New York City, pursuing a composing career, his psyche is perilously on the edge…the first scenes, wordlessly show him alone, and suicidal despite having achieved what, by any standards in the NY music scene, would be considered "success." As Brent explains to his mother, Iris (played lovingly by actress Nancy McDoniel, most recently seen in  the 9/11 film, United 93) he’s  "tired of being alone."

Uncle_2 [L: James Heatherly and R: Brian Patacca – photo: Jim Baldassare]

He’s not alone anymore, and hasn’t really been alone for some time. First, there’s the handsome and sweet Sean, (actor James Heatherly) working in the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library, who is immediately smitten with Brent and drawn into his intensity. But Brent’s other constant companion is the ghost of his long dead Uncle Irvin (actor Darren Lougee) that uncle that no one spoke of, and when they did, someone changed the subject. Finding a snapshot of his Uncle Irvin (that, in this production, is actually of the playwright’s own family), on one more "good-son" journey home to Wisconsin, he questions his mother about the other man in the picture, the one wearing the matching sweater to Uncle Irvin’s. Mom plays dumb and changes the subject to cheese.

Surprisingly spare, the play is, in the end, moving and sweet without cloying. There are ghosts and flashbacks. There are moments in which Gray comes perilously close to "sending a message," and there are some close-to-soap-opera moments, but he dodges these (for me) cringe-inducing pitfalls with well-drawn, human characters…characters we’ve all known or been at one point or another in our lives as Gay people. My partner and I were crying at the end…and they were tears Gray earned honestly. And I hasten to add, they were not the tears of another Brokeback "dead queer" at the end of a morality tale, but tears of reconciliation and the power of love and family. Nor, I might add, is there gratuitous parading of half-dressed handsome men. For those of us for whom this is kind of exposure is important, or at least desirable, yes, shirts and pants are removed. But I’d have to say the sexiest moments are fully clothed and simply sealed with a kiss. Sometimes less really is more.

Gay_bar_book_1_1 Speaking with playwright Dean Gray, this morning, he tells me his next project is another adaptation of a book titled Gay Bar. He’s not really interested, he says, in being tagged as "a gay issues playwright," and I sympathize…but then again, you write what you know. He spoke of his aging parents, something we all come to terms with at some stage of life…but something that takes on even more weight in the lives of many gay men, either because we’re estranged from family or, as is more often the case, and less often acknowledged, the "good sons and daughters" who take on the burdens of aging parents when heterosexual siblings are otherwise engaged with their own children and their own families. 

All too often…and all too often at the hands of our own media…GLBT people are portrayed as care-free with plenty of surplus income for disposal on fashion and style and travel. Tra-fucking-lah!

I may have known one or two gay men like that in my life, but by and large most GLBT people I know are hard-working, just trying to get by and, at the same time, frequently the people who are most involved in taking care of family matters. I’m far from being a proponent of "we’re just like straight people, except for what we do in bed" but the fact of the matter is, this is sadly NOT the image we see of most GLBT people and it is the one I find most common in my own experience…family is important to us. In fact, family is probably THE critical consideration in most GLBT people’s lives when thinking about coming out. [Memo to Oprah…next time you sit there wide-eyed and clutching your fucking pearls, trying to find out why some Gay man would "lie" to people he loves, please remember that unlike Gay people, black folk  were never in any danger of losing the love of family because of race. Neither is being African-American reviled as an abomination in the eyes of god. Nor is there the state-sanctioned pressure to become White. Please…you’ve got a joint checking account with god now, Oprah…buy a clue.]

Anyway, for my own part, as I prepared to come out, I finally had to reach the place where I had to prepare myself for the chance…even the probability I thought…that I might actually never see my family again once I came out. While that wasn’t the case, the strain and estrangement with my own family went on for decades. I don’t think this is unusual. Dean Gray has put it on stage in Uncle and it is well worth seeing. As this production will only be there for a short run, we can only urge readers to watch for more from Dean Gray. It’s a nice antidote to Queer Eye. Or at least some much-needed balance.

Perry Brass on DeFazio’s “To Be Loved”

Brassreview  “To Be Loved”
Ah, to be loved! Review by Perry Brass

“To Be Loved”

I had been intrigued about seeing “To Be Loved,” the play by Alex DeFazio at the tiny Chashama Theater on East 42nd Street because the drama is based on a famous kabuki spectacle, “The Scarlet Princess of Edo,” from 1813, and I had been fortunate to see the Grand Kabuki of Tokyo perform it on one of their once-a-decade tours of America in 1986. I remember the Grand Kabuki very well; it was headlined by Tamasaburo Bando IV, perhaps the world’s greatest inagaka actor, a kabuki term for a man who specializes in female roles, and “The Scarlet Princess,” at tale of karma, reincarnation, and the eternality of love, is a tour de force for inagaka: a priest and a young acolyte, in love in a monastery, are forced to commit suicide when their forbidden love is discovered. In the next generation, the reincarnated priest discovers his lover in a young, virginal girl and pursues her, only tragically to lose her. The actors have to show that they have other characters inside the characters they are portraying, with maleness inside femaleness; in fact, in kabuki tradition, maleness inside femaleness inside more maleness. Quite an order. In “To Be Loved,” a similar tale is told, set in a post-Apocalyptic world after the bombs have gone off (we’re never quite sure which bombs), centered on an older priest’s love for a young student who kills himself by jumping off a cliff (the same method used in the “Scarlet Princess”) leaving the priest, twisted by guilt, to depart the priesthood and try to go “straight.”

Brassreview2_1   Straight means that he, Seigen, played ably by Albert Aeed, will bed Dorian, wildly acted by Kelly Marcus, the filthy rich daughter of a bomb-making, omni-horny privateer, who is oft alluded to but not seen in the play. Dorian is man-hungry, and has a boy-toy of sorts in the gorgeous shape of Dis, Bobby Abid, a Stanley Kowalski-type (but sexually dysfunctional) hunk who is also a pimp for Anon, a young whore of a certain androgyny. So, of course you can see what will happen: Seigen will discover the lost soul of Paul, the boy, in the personality of Anon, who, played by Elizabeth Sugarman, is a pivotal character in the action; she is sensitive, tough, wily, vulnerable, and goes through the gamut of bondage and liberation, but, alas, is never really allowed to be really androgynous. In fact, it is hinted that she is hermaphroditic, although I can’t understand why, as a $20-whore, she is so popular and nobody knows what’s really “down there.” You’d think that at a certain point the equipment would come out; and with better direction, Anon’s undeniable, androgynous attractiveness would have been more evident. She is a Garbo-esque femme-fatale in a brutal world where technology has broken down, violence is everywhere, and human connections are barely tenable. (I know, you’re asking what else is new?) As a character, she could be a stunner, and I don’t think it’s Sugarman’s fault that it’s not happening here, because she’s an interesting actress.

What I liked about “To Be Loved” was that it held to some kabuki elements in its crazy-future setting: the costumes, which were inventive, especially Anon’s ratty kimono and Dis’s deliciously cartoony body armor, reflected this; also the use of red silk scarves to denote blood: very Grand Kabuki. Also the acting tended to be stylized, and the use of loud snapping sounds and other tonal devices were Eastern. Where the play soured was the author’s use of portentous speeches; the plot, or what was trying to be the plot, became so elliptical that at points in the first act I, and a lot of the audience, was lost. The first act could haven been trimmed by 20 minutes; the second, though, came together better, was easier to follow, and shows us that in the drear future, money will trump passion all the time: or, duh?, did I miss out on the last six episodes of “The Bachelor”?

Albert Aeed as Seigen is a fairly Ted Haggard character: all lust, prohibitions, inhibitions, guilt, and meanness. But he is redeemed, sadly enough, by his own true heart, seeking Paul, the Ganymede-like boy he pushed earlier out of his life to suicide, then finally finding him. This is a play about the worship of strange beauty, something I am thrilled with, and Chashama kept much of that intact. The tiny theater backs on to a plate glass store-front window on 42nd Street; the stage’s rear black-out curtains are opened at moments in the action, and life in New York pulses in. Strange beauty, always.

To Be Loved will be performed at Chashama, 217 East 42nd Perry_brass_by_jack_slomow1Street, until Dec. 23rd. For more information:

An Artist of Note – Gonzalo Benard

Received word this morning that Gonzalo Benard, a young Spanish artist who graciously gave us permission to use his beautiful Wings of Pleasure on the cover of White CrWings_of_pleasure_2ane’s edition of Mark Thompson’s Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning has been nominated for the Premio Luso Espanol de Arte Y Cultura (The Spanish Luso Prize for Art & Culture.) The prize includes a cash award of 75,000 Euros and is presented by the Ministries of Culture of both Spain and Portugal as a way of strengthening artistic and cultural relations between the two countries.

On_fire This is one of Benard’s recent works pictured here, entitled On Fire.

Benard lives in Barcelona and works in acrylics and other media.

Buena Suerte Gonza!

Mid-Atlantic Men’s Gathering

1herm1_1This weekend I attended the Fall Gatherette of the Mid-Atlantic Men’s Gathering (MA-MG1herm4).   This is the Autumnal installment — a little smaller and less structured — of a larger Spring gathering that has been held in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years.

It is now held at The Hermitage, an amazing intentional community built by two gay men in Central Pennsylvania.  These two caretakers have gathered, nay, rescued, historic buildings from the surrounding valleys of 1herm3_1this historic farming region. They have transported them to the site, lovingly rebuilt and preserved them for future generations. So, stepping on to the land, is like transporting oneself to a farmstead of two centu1herm5_1ries ago. 

The Gemeinehaus is the jewel in the crown, a Moravian  meeting house from the 1700s with its original stone hearth and circular staircases. It is a wonder to behold, a pleasure to walk through, and an experience to spend a night in.  The setting is rustic but the furnishings are all period and the experience is singular.

This Fall we had a dozen men, all gay,  who gathered to renew themselves on the land — far from the hum of electricity or the busyness of modern bother. 

1herm2_11hermI am always struck by the profundity of gay men gathering in nature to reconnect with one another.  It is too rare an occurence in our life and they stand as experiences of grounding one another in our nature as loving men. There were artists and novelists and cooks and all gentle souls who created a few days space for happiness with fellow travelers.

What other gatherings do people take part in around the country?  May you all experience many such weekends of easy joy.

Viva Pedro

Vivapedro Last night my boyfriend and I had the luck to notice that the Pedro Almodovar film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" was playing at the AFI Silver Theater in Washington, D.C. (well, Silver Spring, Maryland, but it’s close enough). When we got there we saw that this was just the beginning of something much more exciting.

Viva Pedro is a retrospective re-release of eight classic films by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, all leading up to the U.S. release of his latest film "Volver" opening on November 3rd.

Almo1Selected theaters around the country will be showing these movies, and copies of the VHS and DVD’s have been pulled from store shelves until the series is over. The selections include: "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "Talk to Her," "All About My Mother," "Live Flesh," "The Flower of My Secret," "Law of Desire," "Bad Education," and "Matador."

Now I hadn’t seen "Women on the Verge" in like 10 years, and it was a very different experience watching it on video then and seeing it in the theater now. For one, I was only 20 when I saw the film and being young and naive camp humor was pretty much lost on me. No longer! Oh my god, it was a RIOT in that theater! The credits alone had my gay heart singing with glee. But the scenes themselves were just beyond compare. Pepa setting Almo2_hfire to the bed and putting it out with the garden hose with the look of joy and hate in her eyes, the girlfriend who had a fling with terrorists and was running from the law, the psycho wife with two revolvers in her handbag, the closeup shots of high heel shoes walking on marble, doing voice dubs for Joan Crawford movies… I mean the list goes on and on and on. It was a great experience, and if you have the chance to go out and see one of these movies, please, do yourself a favor and go!

A Brilliant Success!

Where 2 Start?!

Riseupand_shout_2_1 Rise Up and Shout! was a glittering evening at the beautiful Barnsdall Theater next to the exquisite Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park. Seventeen wonderfully talented, young gay men and lesbians, ranging in age from 16 to their late-20s, danced, sang, read and otherwise entertained and regaled a packed house. Thai Rivera was the hilarious Master of Ceremonies. Already paying his dues across the country in stand-up comedy clubs, this young talent had a sharp and smart sense of humor that kept the evening moving. A year’s worth of work, headed by White Crane contributor and Advisory Board member, Mark Thompson (and his estimable partner, Malcolm Boyd) and the efforts of Don Kilhefner and the Los Angeles Men’s Medicine Circle, resulted in an inclusive rainbow of ethnicities and genders offering bright and shining acts that gave us poetry, opera, drag, the spirit of Tennessee Williams and dancing (that only made me wish my knees still worked that way!)

Let me see if I can recall it all (links are provided where available…some of the kids are so young and so new they don’t even have web pages….imagine that!)…musician, Richard Rocha, comedian Sandy Helen Bowles, actor Brionne Davis, folk singer Angie Evans, the Voices of G.L.A.S.S. (which, despite their name were dancers…G.L.A.S.S. is Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, one of the most important gay and lesbian services organizations in Los Angeles, providing shelter, food, therapy and other nurturing support to outcast gay and lesbian youth), rapper JenRO, filmmaker and poet Steven Liang.

Singer/songwriter Dan Holguin was followed by tenor Greg Iriart, pianist Peter Kirkpatrick, the glittering and outrageous John Quale, poet Elliott Reed and of course, being L.A., a line-up of actors including Corey Saucier, who did a wonderful reflection on aging in the gay community, Derek Ringold and a garage band, sLoW…I’m running out of breath!  The panoply of talent was masterfully directed by Broadway and Disney movie veteran, Jim Pentecost. And, as if this wasn’t fabulous enough, the whole evening was a benefit for White Crane Institute.

It was wonderful. Watch for these young people…some of them are surely going to be the rising stars of tomorrow. But more importantly, as Don Kilhefner put it in his heartfelt introduction that evening, this was an opportunity for us elders to bless these young talents and welcome them into the community. In an era when transitions are rarely noted, (if not reduced to mere marketing) it was an exciting and moving evening of "Generation Conversation." A full length documentary, due out Spring 2007, is being prepared after months of following the performers and organizers up to their stellar debut at the Barnsdall Theater.

On a personal level it was my pleasure to sit for a series of portraits by noted artist P1010018(and White Crane winter issue featured interview) Don Bachardy.

Bachardy, pictured at the left, works with almost breathtaking speed; each portrait takes under two hours (though try holding one position for that length of time and you’ll see it’s grueling work for a model). He works in acrylics and his gaze is like a laser scanner you feel taking in every inch of your face. He has pots of paints and an enameled cafeteria tray as a pallette and at times his brush simply sweeps across the watery splashes of color he’s pooled on the tray and picks up an opalescent array of colors on the brush.

P1010029_1Here’s Bachardy in a self-portrait at left.

At the same time, while he is working very quickly, sketching on the paper with the colors as he captures you, on some level it would be nice to be able to smile…you know, give the world your best, friendly face? But it is physically impossible to hold a smile for that perP1010032_1iod of time, and you end up with this deep, serious gaze being recorded, to say nothing of the actual interaction between you as the subject and Bachardy as the painter. The effect is, I will admit, slightly unsettling when you finally get to see what he has created. One person called his vision "Bachardy’s eagle eye."

You can see one of the amazing acrylic portraits of me here. We did five! 

My friends Robert Croonquist, Robert Rigdon and I also did the grand architectural tour of the booming downtown Los Angeles, specifically to see the spectacular Disney Music Hall which is P1010034everything and more that it has been cracked up to be.  We walked in and around the hall, climbing into some of the swooping titanium forms themselves, and in and around the truly amazing addition to Los Angeles. Imagine our delight and amazement as we were leaving to walk Grand Street to see the new R.C. cathedral, to run into none other P1010044_1than Frank Gehrey himself being photographed on the sidewalk!

The Catholic cathedral, Our Lady of Angels, was interesting, an almost blank wall to the community in the style of the old Spanish plazas and the missions encP1010045_1losure of various businesses. Inside is a very beautiful set of tapestries depicting the congregation of saints facing towards the altar. The "mission plaza" was a-buzz with people that Sunday. The cathedral has it’s own "Hollywood" touches, with the late Gregory Peck entombed in the mausoleum and the grand and heavy bronze doors and sconces in the cathedral created by Angelica Huston’s husband, Robert Graham.