ZeitBites: Stritch and Me (And Alec Baldwin)

ancient-greek-wine-drinkingLast night I debauched with my DB. (That’s DrunkBuddy – which is like a FuckBuddy, only instead of indulging in orgy-ass-tastic, no-strings-attached, no commitment sex, you intemperately imbibe in no-holds-barred, no judgment, crapulence inducing dipsomania.) Despite his tender years, DB and I have known each other for decades and nary a bout of boozing goes by without discussion of our improbable bond.

We are interesting inverses of one another, in the Latin-root (though it is important to note we are not now and never have been Greek-rooted) sense meaning turned inside out. And while we both profess an abhorrence for labels, there is no denying that reality requires making the infinite possibilities of “all that is” bite size by demarcating lines of definition and categorization, and by those measurements and cultural norms, we would seem to have little in common.

He would likely be described as youngish, straight, in many ways conservative, bro-ish. While my adjective list would include oldish, gay, uber-liberal, best-girl-friendish. Now, just in making those lists I have employed ageism, standard-cultural hetero-normative presumption, classism, and sexism – all of which I claim to eschew. Those labels limit, and in the case of DB and me, though each list is accurate enough on the surface, when and if we let people past the surface, those “accurate enough labels” are exposed as woefully inadequate, even, in some ways, the opposite of true, and, at the very least, only a little tiny portion of the picture of who we are.

We all choose what we show of the whole picture of who we are, and with whom we share it. Sometimes, some of us, don’t really have any clear idea of who and what we are, and so we show the world all facade because we haven’t yet found our own truth, or we fear it, or we fear people’s reactions to it should we share it. Every day, we all walk fine lines of moral and spiritual and social ambiguity that are difficult to discuss openly with most of the people in our lives. That’s why everyone needs a DB. With us, between us, there is no real shaming – and yet, we faux-shame one another relentlessly, viciously, constantly, calling each other out on hypocrisies and indefensible dichotomies and asshole moves, and this more and more often occurs while we are being lubricated by a couple of bottles of wine. Like last night.

winetast460We decided to have dinner delivered to the suburban Maryland condo where he was weekending, during which call he was making on my phone (he left his charger at his home) I managed to break the corkscrew. Luckily, he has bro-skills, and managed with a tool kit, long screw, and pair of pliers to open that bottle. And the next. And the next. We watched episodes of How I Met Your Mother – his choice, not mine – and then Jeopardy – my choice, not his. Then, things get a little blurry, somehow we were watching SharkTank – he loves, I hate – and I tried to watch Hannibal – never seen it, he didn’t want to – and then, his choice, we rented a movie called Date and Switch, for which the elevator pitch from IMDB is:

Two guys who make a pact to lose their virginity before prom find their friendship tested when one of them comes out of the closet. (CLICK HERE FOR IMDB ENTRY FOR MOVIE)

Frat BumpWe kept pausing it to argue. I found the movie to be a facile and false hetero-culturized telling of the coming out experience, in addition to which, the newly out guy almost INSTANTLY met a really, really cool and attractive boyfriend and BOTH OF THEM were stereotypical “straight acting” about which they remarked, repeatedly, bonding over how they’d never watched the Tony Awards and loved hitting people and shit. Please. In addition, the just out guy did the “gay as imagined by straight” culture trope of accidentally sleeping with a woman in his tortured, lonely, coming out process. It was that which caused our biggest Pause/Argument as I posited it was proof of male-hetero-presumptive brainwashing that it’s common in pop-culture entertainments and no big deal for gay guys to have sex with women, and for straight women to have sex with other women, but it is almost NEVER portrayed where a straight guy has sex with another guy, and if it is, that is assumed to be MAJOR and he is no longer “straight”. After which rant of mine, DB launched into his “well all you gay guys think EVERY guy is gay anyway so what difference does it make?” Which is a point, but a point in an entirely different argument.

Stritch, ElaineWe, once again, moaned about living in a world where labels fuck things up so badly and suddenly it was after ten (and two empty bottles) and we decided we needed a second dinner and more wine and so, pizza and bottle three were gotten and we argued about what to rent next. I won this one. Sadly. It was the documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, about the Broadway legend. I wish I had read a review or two before I badgered DB into this. (CLICK HERE TO READ THE NEW YORK MAGAZINE/VULTURE REVIEW OF DOC BY DAVID EDELSTEIN)

Here’s the thing, and I quote myself from above (now, there’s some HUBRIS for you!):

We all choose what we show of the whole picture of who we are, and with whom we share it. Sometimes, some of us, don’t really have any clear idea of who and what we are, and so we show the world all facade because we haven’t yet found our own truth, or we fear it, or we fear people’s reactions to it should we find and share it. Every day, we all walk fine lines of moral and spiritual and social ambiguity that are difficult to discuss openly with most of the people in our lives.

It is crystal clear from the documentary that Stritch lived her life suffering all sorts of  terrors about who she was and whether or not she belonged and was loved, and, because of that, she could be a terror. And, on the other side of that terror – or because of that terror – she could be a vulnerable, needy, adoring, loving, boisterous mess of a best friend and DrunkBuddy. It pushed all sorts of buttons for me and DB, and he ended up – as he always does – knowing when I was crumbling, at which point he reaches out and holds my hand (and holds me up) without hesitation. It is who he is.

Stephen Sondheim and Elaine Stritch

Stephen Sondheim and Elaine Stritch

But not everyone sees that in him. Or, sees what he sees in me. But we agree that how and what we see of each other is closer to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth than most other people we know can or will ever see. Some people think me a horrid, awful person, and a terror with whom to work, and an embittered, nasty, vile thing – just the way some people see Stritch. Then, others, see us more whole. Without denying the so-called dark sides, they see the light too, like Mr. Stephen Sondheim sees in Stritch.

We need people who don’t judge. Speaking of which, I try not to judge too much, but I do not pretend I succeed at being Buddha-like, and lately ranted about Mr. Alec Baldwin – or, the part of himself he recently allowed to escape – but, there was his name as Executive Producer of this Stritch documentary. I can only assume he was instrumental in its getting made, in acknowledging her importance to the culture, and for that, he deserves much praise and honor. Well done, Mr. Baldwin. And perhaps the press and your anger have caused you to appear to be someone and something you are not – heaven knows I have appeared as someone and something I am not if one listened to certain stories or, yes, read certain of my writings. So, I deign in my powerlessness to cut you a break.

wineCutting breaks is still a breath too late though, isn’t it? Because the fact that we think we need to (or can) cut someone a break means we have already sat in judgment. And we need not to judge, especially our loved ones. But there again, fine line between supporting someone no matter who they are, no matter the mistakes they might make or have made, and enabling them in bad and destructive behavior.

Which DB and I have discussed before and will, no doubt, again. Because we all have a little Elaine Stritch and Alec Baldwin and Charlie Smith and DB in us, whether we like to admit it or not. We all have those days and those doings born of the terror we feel inside about whether or not we are seen, whether or not we are loved, whether or not we are of enough value to stop drinking (or smoking, or drugging, or shopping, or eating, or some other self-destruct method) ourselves into oblivion. And we need to own them, look at them, and make decisions about the next step on the journey – without judging ourselves.

Now that – NOT JUDGING OURSELVES – is much, much more difficult than not judging others and something on which I really, really, REALLY need to work.

But, not tonight. Tonight, I am drinking alone. Well, with my books. And my puppies. At my house sitting gig. And feeling pretty judge-y about a couple of ME-things. So, is it too early to open the wine and start the bacchanal? Nah. I’ll be all bro about this. Or, girl-friendy. Either way, the corkscrew here works. Later.

Rainbow Notes: Being Joey … (Luft, that is)

My niece recently told me that she has recently experience a huge “popularity bump” because of me. Her peer group thinks it’s uber-cool that she lives with a (crazy) gay uncle. I intuited the unspoken (crazy) – my niece would never use a label, any label, on anyone, well, perhaps her younger brother. In any event, in an effort to maintain my cred as house homo, resident radical, local loon, I have decided to regularly recount Rainbow Notes; light-hearted, good-time, old-and-new-school remarkings, snarkings, barkings and larkings concerning the tropes of Queer Culture from the erastes and eromenos of ancient Greece to the mod-day diversions of Grindr and “It Gets Better.”

This is all – mind you – an excuse for me to write regularly about Judy Garland without shame. And thus, at the Oscar ceremony this coming Sunday a 75th Anniversary salute to The Wizard of Oz is being scheduled and holy Oscar Fucking Wilde, not just Lorna Luft, not just Liza with a Z (not Lisa with an S, cuz Lisa with an S goes SSS not ZZZ), but ALL THREE OF JUDY’S KIDS – including the almost NEVER seen nor heard from JOEY LUFT – are part of the tribute. I AM RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS! Read the story here at The Hollywood Reporter.

Watch this clip from The Judy Garland show in which Frances Ethel Gumm sings to her son:

And, to add to my recent (as in, yesterday) rant (CLICK HERE TO READ IT – and see naked basketball players!) about Alec Baldwin’s “forgot to check my privilege” screaming fit, click here for a great link to Noah Michelson’s Open Letter to Alec Baldwin. I would especially like the friends of my niece who have been raised in mostly hetero-normative/white privilege and think I’m cool (but a token) and who continue to use words like (I apologize for even typing these)  “bitch” and “nigga” and “faggot” and “gai-bois” as casual patois, to read this and understand why THEY SHOULD STOP USING THOSE WORDS.

Tyler Poset being an ass.

Tyler Poset being an ass.

Speaking of foolish youngsters (and oldsters) using thoughtless language and allowing homophobia to invade their thoughts (not that my own internalized acculturated homophobia doesn’t still get the best of me sometimes), Tyler Posey, once the lead of MTV’s incredibly homo-erotic and queer-centric remake of Teen Wolf until he was replaced in the fan’s hearts by the remarkable Dylan O’Brien, recently started an uproar by his careless disdain for those fans (me included) who are Sterek-obsessed. If you don’t know what that means, this Rainbow Note doesn’t apply to you, so skip ahead.  I’m sure it must rankle Posey that O’Brien has become a cult-figure, gotten leads in huge films, and seems to be taking off in ways that Posey is not as an actor. Still, that is no reason to denigrate the interests of what is obviously a huge fan-base, a fan-base powerful enough to get O’Brien made into the main character this season – and, worse, to do so using language that has long been “coded” as anti-Queer. Think before you speak, Posey. (And everyone else.)

And, finally, I’ve been the gay uncle for four decades now, a couple of generations’ worth of uncle-ing it up, and long ago I was – once – even a gay godfather (not in the gay mafia sort of way that Alec Baldwin derides, but, rather, in the actual baptismal font in a Catholic church way) for my fabulous nephew, yep, Joe. Joe is the nephew who now works at the White House and gave me a private tour one day ( READ ABOUT IT HERE). YES, HE DOES. I have BEGGED and PLEADED with him to keep the gig until Hillary gets there, because I HAVE GOT TO MEET HER. He laughed. In fear. Because, you know, when you work in the White House, sometimes having a CRAZY gay uncle is not quite as beneficial as it is when in high school. LOL. When I was still singing, I always meant to sing Happiness is Just A Thing Called Joe, as did Ms. G in the above clip – but, I never did.

tin man cropDamn. Don’t get me started on things I should have done and songs I should have sung (which was the name for my aborted cabaret evening – alas) because I will turn into melancholy baby, and, frankly, already uncomfortably close today. Later, heading over the rainbow – meaning, to the locker room and sauna at the gym in search of the TinMan.

Later . . . oh, and watch out for that bicycle riding harridan . . .