Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Lotus of the Broken Drum

One Sunday when I was about seven years old our family was playing a game of softball in a field on my grandparents' farm.  It was a beautiful summer day and I was very excited when it was finally my turn at bat.  I stuck out once, twice, three times...  "Just keep throwing until he hits one" ...four, five, six... "Keep your eye on the ball", eight nine  ..."You're not concentrating!" ...ten, eleven, twelve...  "He can't hit.  He's a sissy!"  ...thirteen, fourteen, fifteen... "I don't want to play anymore"  ...sixteen, seveteen... "You better go inside the house and play,  Son.  I think you've had enough."

Utterly humiliated and in tears I went to my aunt's house where I found my cousin Jan.  To me, she was the epitome of teen-age cool -barefoot, thin as a reed in bell-bottoms with her long red hair pulled back off of her face by a blue bandanna.

"Who cares about softball anyway?  Wanna listen to some music?  I just got the new Carpenters album."

My Aunt Joyce and Uncle Larry had one of those stereos that as basically a big piece of furniture that took up one entire wall in their living room and always seemed to be in competition with the beat up old upright piano on the opposite wall.  Today the stereo won.  First there was a kind of plastic clicking sound, then a gentle thud as the record hit the felt on the turntable...

"We've Only Just Beguuun to Liiive..."

And with a gentle crack from Karen's throat we were off.  That opening line full of hope and sadness was transformative, life changing.  No longer was I a failed seven-year-old  boy.  I was inducted into the mysteries of feminine adolescent romanticism and despair and Karen Carpenter was our dorky drum-playing Avatar!

About halfway through the record Jan's boyfriend came by and it wasn't too long before he asked if we could put on some rock music.  Jan rolled her eyes, dripping condescension, "This IS rock music."

"No it isn't.  This is girls' music."

I froze.

"Don't be ridiculous!  This isn't girls' music.  Chippy likes it and he's a boy.  Right Chippy?"

I liked it?  And I was a boy?

"Yeah!  Don't be ridiculous.  This isn't girls' music.  Everyone likes The Carpenters.  I should know -I'm a boy..."

"So many roads to choose...  We start out walking and learn to run..."

Karen's voice was both reassuring and profoundly sad.  She sat behind her drum kit knocking out beats and giving voice to a complex emotionality rooted in solitude, self-consciousness, and yearning.

Eventually The Carpenters became too successful and Karen was forced to come out from behind her beloved drum kit and reveal herself to a waiting, adoring, and perhaps terrifying audience.  After "Close to You" she was no longer the shy, drumming tomboy from Downey, California.  She was an all to frail, all too human pop star.

To me she is a Goddess, The Lotus of the Broken Drum, and I'm pretty sure she saved my life.

-Written May 26, 2007 as a program note for the first Justin Bond is Close to You show at the Zipper Factory

For Christmas this year I will be performing

Justin Bond is Close to You at Christmas, Darling

featuring The Pixie Harlots
musical direction:  Lance Horne

Thursday, December 11 at 8pm
Friday, December 12 at 7:30 and 10
Saturday, December 13 at 7:30 and 10

The Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand St. New York, NY

$25 | 212.352.3101

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Justin Bond is Living

Last night I hopped in a cab and went to the Tribeca Grand to see a screening of MILK. I went by myself so I was a little nervous that I would have to sit alone and look like the CRAZY OLD LADY SOBBING in the corner which is, admittedly, a good look but to be honest I didn't want to ruin my make-up which was looking fierce after a photo-shoot I had in Brooklyn with Alice O'Malley earlier in the day.  That's a lie.  Actually my make-up was wind-swept and tear-stained already after being WHIPPED FROM PILLAR TO POST (OMG -What do you think that aphorism is referencing?) by that asshole Jack Frost when I was walking home from my shrink appointment, but DON'T EXPECT COMPLETE TRUTH in this blog and if you've got a problem with run-on sentences SCRAM while you have the chance because I may be a big fan of Joan Didion but I AIN'T HER.  Got it?

So as I said I was going to see Milk alone and I was nervous about it but fortunately on my way into the men's room to find a mirror to wipe the FALSE EYELASH TAR out of the crease in my weepy right eye who did I run into but John Cameron Mitchell -but of course his row was full... Fortunately, as soon as I walked into the screening room I spotted Roz Lichter who, aside from being an amazing lawyer and wonderful friend has the best surname a lesbian could ask for -or even a lawyer could ask for really... suffice it to say I feel safe and secure in her hands. So I sat down.

Just so I don't ruin anything I want to say right up front that HE DIES IN THE END. I say that more to remind myself because I have a tendency to fall into the "Never On A Sunday" mentality that Melina Mercouri, the Never On A Sunday girl espoused in the film of the same name, Never On A Sunday. In that film she would go to the theatre to see a GREEK TRAGEDY but conveniently when she was retelling the story to her friends and neighbors at the end they would "All go to the Beach!" Sadly, at the end of the film Harvey Milk doesn't go to the beach... NO WAIT!  In fact, his ashes are scattered in the bay,  so technically...

Regardless, I didn't have to wait until the end to start getting worked up. Maybe it was the eyelash tar or maybe it was the footage of all those lovely FAGS OF YORE being rounded up and thrown into the POKEY during the opening credits but I was taken on a real emotional roller-coaster ride. The story is pretty familiar from the documentary, "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk" but there's something about the old Hollywood treatment that somehow makes history more real -not for me, mind you, but for people like my Mom. I remember when I went to see Philadelphia with her and at one point Tom Hanks had this really great moment and my Mom leaned over and said, "There's his Oscar." in that instant I knew AIDS was no longer an abstraction to her. Sean Penn will probably get an Oscar for this movie and a lot of more mainstream people will have a fresh insight as to how to approach their views toward QUEER LIBERATION because of it. I don't know if I can say as of yet whether it's a great film because it pushed too many of my buttons what with all the footage of Castro St.,  spotting people I know who were in the crowd scenes -WORK PEACHES CHRIST!!!, my friends who were portrayed in the film -BRING IT Danny Nicoletta!

Undeniably, the acting was great and some of the performances were indeed amazing.

The real uncanny thing, to me, is the timing. It reminds me of when The China Syndrome came out right when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant went all funky. That film wasn't all that great when I went back to watch it a few years ago -although Miss Jane Fonda's cork wedges were still WERQUEING OVERTIME. But I think this film comes at a time time when the LGBT community needs a shot of inspiration and if nothing else the story is truly inspirational.


Afterward, JCM and Stephen Winter encouraged me to crash the party at the Bowery Hotel -something I never do.   But since I was a wearing understated Dior from SEVERAL seasons ago ( okay the trousers, or maybe I should say slacks, were purchased second hand on the Portobello Road in London because I try to buy as little as possible "new".  I follow the sage advice of my dear late grandfather who said you should always have a good coat, a good pair of boots and a firm mattress and I always buy those things new so I got myself that killer Dior coat at the boutique in Paris -hello!) I felt confident enough to walk into that scenario.

Let me just say up front that I hate big parties and rarely go unless I'm being paid to be there. Generally I find that for some reason when it comes to such events -say the Out 100, the Tonys or even the Met Costume Institute Gala- people act the same way they would if they were stranded at an airport during a blizzard: alternately tense, condescending, desperate and obsequious.

But this party was actually fun. 

Magpie, or in this case, FAGPIE that I am my eye was imediately drawn to Gilbert Baker the man who made the original rainbow flag who was sparkling in Swarofsky crystals, Cleve Jones who was beautifully portrayed in the film by Emile Hirsch (one of my co-stars in the film Imaginary Heroes), Evan, "Like Heaven without and H", who works with Burlesque superstar Narcisister, Parker Posey (with whom I share a psycho-analyst... still crazy, THANKS MOM!!!), That scary guy... oh yeah, Mickey Roarke was there too and lots of other famous people including Rufus Wainwright and I was glad to see him so I could talk to him about what the hell I'm going to perform in the McGarrigle Christmas Hour at Carnegie Hall December 10th and we came up with some ideas.  IT"S GOING TO BE FANTASTIC!


Steven reminded me of some advice I gave him several year ago. "There's always going to be someone to tell you when to leave." Fortunately I didn't take my own advice and left the room of my own volition, "WITH DIGNITY!"

Thanks to the Karpel Group for inviting me to the screening. Can I bring a date next time?