Horror Stories … existential variety …

gif jessica langeI’m not quite as caught in the undertow as I was  in yesterday’s post “Homes, Housepets, Husbands, and Heartaches Not My Own; A How Not To Manual” [click it] but, warning, still not as perky as I might be. Trying. Really, I am.

First world existential issues: my internet connection here where I am house/pet sitting is iffy and odd and disconnects me frequently. Being frequently disconnected feels oddly, terrifyingly symbolic. I’ve been disconnecting myself – as it were – anyway, and other than yesterday’s blog, pretty much hiding out in my own weirdness. Too, one of the doggies here has wakened today – and did I mention they make me get up at 4:30-5:00 a.m. here? – with stomach issues. Gwennie didn’t eat her breakfast, has chewed a lot of grass, shat on the rug, and has stomach-growling going on the volume of which challenges mine from a few weeks ago. I sympathize, Gwennie. She is on my lap, passing gas and gastro-gurgling as I type.

Life is hard right now. There is a lot of Continue reading

Saturday Night

Colby Keller never called. Oh well. I got to see my Cody. And, Her Grace checked on me. Those things are beautiful. I am grateful for the ways I am loved. But, oh dear, I’m exhausted, my Lights and Loves. I am truly, truly exhausted.

charlie up a tree_edited-1 (2)

June 12, 2014 7

Charlie attitude

Cody and Charlie theatre

Cody and Charlie at Bridges

charlie at 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Garbo I Want To Be Alone

Sissie 3

once was my heart

feb 3 2014 5

alone2

DC Jan 2014 3 NY Times Press Seat at White House

shot to the head

C PURPLE4

C PURPLE3

C PURPLE2

allen

Mommy & Charlie 1 001

April 2013 5

I need to laugh more often. I believe that lack of laughter is why I am so tired. Saturday night.

 

 

 

LIZA WITH A W(TF)?

Yesterday was Liza Minnelli’s 68th birthday. Holy shit.

This was mentioned on any number of the blogs and websites I follow – which would tell you all you needed to know about me had I not already told you ad nauseam all you could EVER possibly want to know (or, more like – NOT WANT TO KNOW – have I mentioned how not one of my relatives follows me? LOL) about me – but it was Snicks at THE BACK LOT (click here for link, great daily site, TRULY) who turned me on to Liza’s DISCO FUCKING VERSION OF STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S LOSING MY MIND FROM FOLLIESwhat? YES. Holy shit. I canNOT stop watching and listening.

Oh my. I may never leave my house again. Liza is my spirit animal. We are almost the identical kind of crazy.

Remember when there was talk of a Follies film with Minnelli, Streisand, Midler? Just talk. But, man oh man, what if that had happened? I mean, Merman and Martin got together. Why did those divas never join forces? We could have added Cher to the mix, too. HOLY SHITBALLS! WHAT A FANTASY!

Enjoy obsessing on that now. Or don’t. But, if you don’t – you may NOT be my target audience. Today anyway. When I am, as I said, CRAZY! That’s CRAZY WITH A Z!

Thank you very much, I’ll be here all week – at least. Or, I will be as soon as I am done carting around my own “Mama” – who was not Judy, but, she could sing when she felt like it.

Mom Me Feb 20 2014 judy_garland_with_her_daughter_liza_minnelli__36yNW4B4.sized

Oscar Weekend w/ Sebastian and Charlie: A Hate Story (Part 2)

Your intrepid – or, insipid and insane – blogger has stopped drinking again. Well, in any event, he hasn’t had a drink since Friday night’s debauch with DB which he described in the previous entry. Sadly, it is not the only withdraw he has had to withstand this weekend, and, apparently, these multiple shocks to his system have resulted in the manifestation of multiple psychopathies including writing about himself in the third person and the re-emergence of his multiple, the English and erudite and snarkily cruel, Sebastian (CLICK HERE to read about Sebastian’s first appearance). (He’s a Brit, so he puts the periods outside the parentheses).

Well, I watched the Oscars last night.I’m house-sitting at a place with HBO, so, it was a struggle to decide because there was my boyfriend, Russell Tovey, on HBO in Looking. And, his play just closed in England and he’d Tweeted out another shot of himself in his underwear and  . . . well, LOOK:

Tovey, Russell Pass Instagram

I mean, you can see why I was torn? But, I watched the Oscars.

I had to; there was going to be a 75th Anniversary Tribute to Judy Garland’s The Wizard of Oz at which Joey Luft was going to join his sisters, Lorna Luft and Liza Minnelli, and, I mean, who in the world wouldn’t want to see that? See it, I did. I thought Pink singing Over The Rainbow was – well, the thing is, I thought it was incredibly sincere and deeply felt, but, you just don’t breathe between syllables of words and in the middle of phrases that are all one thought. You just don’t. That said, I was weeping – not just a little – but, rather, out of control heaving. And then came a text from DB. One word: “Crying?”

ENOUGH. This is Sebastian. DB is hardly psychic. It was the sob heard round the world as every aging bender, poofter and queen dissolved predictably when the original over-the-rainbow role-model of psychotic vulnerability and drug addiction was feted by the homo-mafia run film industry by trotting out her trio of troubled progeny, clearly so manic and maladjusted they weren’t even allowed ON THE STAGE, but, instead, safely displayed – out of microphone range – in all their derangement in the audience. When they were asked to stand up, the camera quickly cut away before the worldwide audience bore witness to the blue-haired (and not in the dignified way) one – dressed in a sheath dyed to match the streak in her hair, an outfit seemingly designed by the raised-from-the-dead Halston, meant to double as a body-bag when she dropped dead from cocaine overdose at the after-party.

Stop it. This is why I don’t like to let him out. English people can be so cruel. I promised myself as I watched and after that I would NOT be mean and snarky and vitriolic. And then, John Travolta came on and introduced Idina Menzel. Or, as he called her, Adele Dazim. WTF?

It was too much for me, even when I was sober. Or, especially when I was sober? I IMMEDIATELY Tweeted: “Maybe #JohnTravolta isn’t gay if he can’t even say #IdinaMenzel”

I thought it was pretty funny. It was RT-ed by a few people. Until it was stolen by a New York actor type without attribution and suddenly RT-ed by all sorts of out-of-my-league-ish people. Which pissed me off and made me sad. But, it didn’t make me drink. And, I also didn’t feel too badly about having said it as Twitter exploded with New York-y type musical theatre diva-folk going wild about the Travoltalk pronunciation. Betty Buckley, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, etc. So. There. I forgive myself.

OH FUCK FORGIVENESS. Sebastian here again. Stop with the git-fairy, aspirational toff shite. He’s a total mess since Saturday. He knew that the going was coming. Enlistments only last so long. Then people move on. It came. The ending. It wasn’t as if there was any commitment other than temporary comfort. So, now he’s left with a picture, finally, and a name he has promised never to say out loud – at least they finally shared the truth – and one more sad story only he and one other person knows, along with a collection of texts and emails, the syntax and spelling and grammar of which alone should make him weep. And this all comes of having spent too much of his youth wanting to be like Judy and too much of his adulthood following the likes of Adele Dazim. No more ballads, Charles. Get a grip. Or, start drinking again. Or, for fuck’s sake, throw out the Starbucks cup he drank from Saturday that you’re saving and go out and FIND someone like Russell Tovey – you know, WHO IS NOT ASKING TO BE SAVED AND IS ACTUALLY ABLE TO LOVE OUT LOUD?

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 . . .

The Mo(u)rning After … Monday Zeitbites …

In which your intrepid social critic recovers from all sorts of hangovers brought on by Sunday – and weekend – not all that Super – and all the sorts of bowls involved …

bulgeI’m not a fan of football. I tried. Two years ago I started watching because the people with whom I most often spent my weekends were enthusiasts. I managed an elementary grasp of the rules, but in the end, my zealotry was for obsessively noting not statistics or fine-points about the game, but, rather, catching VPL’s and determining who was too hung or manly for a protective cup.

Actually, my friends sort of got that I wasn’t REALLY interested in it the way they were when I spent forty minutes obsessively questioning them (there were quite a few straight men with a team sport background involved) about why it was that in high school one HAD to wear a protective cup; only in SOME colleges was it mandated; and in pro-sports it was a personal choice – and whether or not there was such a thing as a penis too large to fit comfortably in a cup and what did one do if one HAD such a penis in high school or a college where protective cup was mandated and . . . well, you get the picture . . . if not, I’ve posted one to help you! You’re welcome.

Still, SuperBowl weekend is SuperBowl weekend. In addition to which, since having received that football in the mail last week from someone who is still a mystery to me (CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT IT), it seemed as if I had to pay at least a little attention to the game – or, the culture surrounding it – meaning, it’s a free day for eating like a pig. Which I did. Many processed meat and cheese products, the cooking and ingesting of which – combined with all the Friday and Saturday night wine imbibing, absolutely exhausted me. So . . .

I actually napped during the game, mostly. I was exhausted. I was out Friday night. Way the fuck out, actually, and had a lot of wine. And while I was in Saturday night because I was still tired from Friday night’s Bacchanalia, I drank a lot more wine. So, last night, no wine. Just naps. However, I did think Bruno Mars was hot at halftime, in fact I Tweeted:

:I  had no idea until this very moment that my life’s ambition was to have sex w/

Dame Maggie Smith, Indeed.

Dame Maggie Smith, Indeed.

Shortly after, I switched over to Downton Abbey. Great, GREAT episode in which Lady Grantham, the Dowager Countess, was in RARE, RARE form. Read the re-cap here at TBL. Best line of the night:

Cousin Isobel: “How you hate to be wrong.”
Dowager Countess: “I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.”

That line was Tweeted like mad by many, myself included, and that made me oh so happy that enough people were watching Downton that I was seeing The Dowager Countess’s great lines sent through the twittosphere over and over. Score. Although, I believe, the BEST Tweet of the night goes to Hillary Clinton who sent this out:

Hillary You go Hillary. Or, stay. Stay and RUN.

But there were a lot of distractions this weekend. Troubled young manufactured pop-singer boy-star leaking a photo of his latest circling of homoerotic adventure, involving a stripper’s nipple. And the famous director alleged sexual abuse of his adopted daughter and the ways in which public reaction further reveal the rape and shame and insane culture in which we live. And the purportedly drug overdosed death of a famous actor.

All of those stories disturbed me in different ways for different reasons, but I think what most troubled me were the ways in which people who had nothing to do with these stories, who in no way had any personal connection to these people and no real, factual, firsthand knowledge of the situations, felt free to speak as if they did, to pass judgment, to pontificate and diagnose and condemn and sentence to punishment.

  • Who the fuck do we all think we are minding the business of everyone else, inserting ourselves into their lives and publishing our opinions on matters of a personal nature? I find this despicable. It is why I left Facebook, frankly, because it was so epidemic, so hateful, and too – because so many people I knew personally were obviously using Facebook in ways meant to manipulate, hurt, and influence others. What a world.

I have better things to do. And there are WAAAAYYYYY more important things about which my opinion MUST BE HEARD. For example:

  • SPARKLE NEELY SPARKLERemaking Valley of the Dolls (CLICK HERE). ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE? That film was PERFECTION. Never will there ever be actresses fit to fill the gowns of Travilla in the manner of Misses Parkins, Duke, and Tate (that’s the original billing order, thank you very much) let alone the shoes of Miss Susan Hayward who replaced original choice, Judy Garland as Helen Lawson; a role for whom, it is rumored, they are pursuing Madonna? MADONNA? WTactualF? Puhlease.
  • Tovey on LookingI don’t have HBO. I don’t normally find myself wanting to pay for premium cable. I am one of those “wait until the boxed set” sort of people who like to binge watch. Or, binge watch when I house sit for one or another of my better-off clients who have the whole million-dollar-a-month package. Usually, fine with it – HOWEVER – right now, at this moment, the fact that I am missing my boyfriend Russell Tovey on HBO’s Looking is sort of killing me. Although, apparently, this article on Slate (WHY DOES HBO’S LOOKING LACK ERECTIONS?) tells me that what I most want from Russell will not be forthcoming. Damn.

Oh well, I have other things with which to fill my time. For instance, figuring out who did it and why in the case of the mysterious football. And, too, why is it that my computer is SO FUCKING SLOW AND GETTING SLOWER BY THE DAY. It is constantly freezing and I’m having to wait and then, of a sudden, mobility returns. I’ve a suspicion I’m being stalked by someone – that the combination of NSA and GOOGLE minding my business is making it hard for me to troll as quickly as I’d like.

  • What I’d REALLY like to know is what matrix or algorithm is being used to determine which ads should be popping up everywhere I surf. I mean, I get The Glass Menagerie on Broadway – BUT I’VE SEEN IT SO STOP. And I get Mother Courage at Arena Stage starring Kathleen Turner, but I am NOT going, so STOP. I guess I get Verizon Wireless, but I hate and never will forgive you and yet, as in my love-life, cannot ever seem to let you go, so ENOUGH ALREADY. And, okay yes I do regularly cruise and lust after MACKWELDON.COM underwear, so that makes perfect sense.

I wish this ad would have popped up in my feed. (P.S. Thanks to Joe. My. God. blog for this. CLICK HERE FOR JOE.) Loves it:

But instead I get bombarded by ads for MOTEL 6 having Frederick’s cheapest rates. WHY do they keep showing up? Do you know something I don’t know? And let me say this; I have an almost obsessive fear of bed bugs, so the chances I would EVER walk into a discount motel chain are – oh fuck it, who am I kidding –

– anyway, I have to go and run about ten miles on a treadmill to undo the slothful eating, drinking, and resting of this weekend during which there were – alas – no adventures in Motel 6 or anywhere else I might have scratched – or caught – an itch.

… synaptic leaps of joy …

Last night I drank champagne. As I sipped it I thought, “I simply adore champagne.”Naturally, the next leap was to the sentiment, “It is divinely decadent.”

Thompson, Kay

Kay Thompson in “Funny Face”

If you know how I got from start to finish (and it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish: Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment, SeeSaw, Tommy Tune, Barbara Cook, You Can Get There From Here – can you follow THAT synaptic path?) then I wish you would be my friend so that we might sip champagne and leap the light synaptic together!

The thing: the syntax and the sentiment of “I simply adore champagne” made me think of Eloise. Many folks think of the Hilary Knight illustrations but for me it is all about Kay Thompson. (SEE EVERYTHING ELOISE AND KAY THOMPSON AND HILARY KNIGHT HERE) Miss Thompson was the epitome of the svelte, soignee sophisticate with whom I imagined I would spend my life. We would toss about witty bon mots and drink to excess with no effect, and everyone would desire us: Our Company, Our Companionship, Our Approval.

Thompson, Kay bookMiss Thompson was rumored to have invented the word “pizazz” and in addition to her legendary nightclub act (“not just an act, and experience”) she worked as vocal coach with all the MGM greats – including Judy Garland who made her Liza Minnelli’s godmother. It was Liza on whom Eloise was modeled. And so, you see, it was a short synaptic leap to the Sally Bowles line as purred by Liza Minnelli as no doubt instructed by Miss Thompson when Miss Minnelli filmed the musical “Cabaret” (I’m now sitting alone in my room, from which perch I can see “Liberation: Diaries 1970-1983 of Christopher Isherwood who was, indeed, a camera in ways I will never be) directed by Bob Fosse – another of the types with whom I thought I’d be cavorting throughout my life and …

You see how this goes? So many connections. Such fun to live in my mind and make these leaps. However, now I can’t decide WHERE to focus my attention. Do I re-read some old Isherwood? Search YouTube for snippets of Kay Thompson in “Funny Face” or her nightclub extravaganza? Watch “Cabaret” and fall for Michael York again? Or … spend hours on the Kay Thompson website (CLICK HERE IF YOU’D LIKE TO DO THAT – IT’S RAWTHER FASCINATING!)

Cabaret_31134_Medium

Hell, why don’t I call up my Kay or Liza or Fosse or Christopher and hit a bar for some champagne sipping and the tossing of bon mots to and fro? Both champagne and bon mots are frequently described as “sparkling” which is an interesting synaptic connection … oh dear … this is all rawther sklonkingly exhawwwwsting … I think I really better skibble over to my bed and have a rest for my brain.

Happy happy leaping to you … and if this makes sense at all … please call me. Especially call me if you might be the Don to my Chris … or the Nicholas to my Colin … if you follow … would pictures help?

A SINGLE MAN GIFisherwood being painted by bachardyIsherwood Chris and Don

Yes, if you do follow, well . . . that would be just darling!

… such beauty … the music …

I have lived an incredibly gorgeous life in many, many ways … and especially magical has been the presence of the magic of musical theatre and what it has done for me and meant to me … and tonight I have been listening to such gorgeousness … here is some of it … first of all, Miss Julia Murney singing Kander & Ebb’s “Colored Lights:

And Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis singing Gershwin … Please. Could a year begin any better?

And 33 years ago and STILL it hasn’t been equalled … oh man, Broadway musicals are so ridiculously MAGICAL …

And, oh lord … this?

Or, oh my god, this?

Or this version of it … what a hilarious genius …

Which takes me here …

And, naturally, back to Audra – oh such love …

And that makes me want to laugh a bit and so …

And I couldn’t start a “new year” without this genius and gift to music …

Now, I have to go to sleep . . . goodnight and good year my dears … I am off to dream of being assimilated …

see I’m smiling and it’s been all about men in uniform and 25 dozen cookies and 3 days w/out the gym later …

If you’re happy and you know it … date a marine? Long story, but not the point . . . the point is . . . SMILE! I was considering sending out holiday cards but . . . well, it’s just not my thing . . . I did get one though, and here it is. I really think he should have worn a Santa Cap, don’t you?

A friend of mine making merry . . .

A friend of mine making merry . . .

I am REALLY making the effort to be someone who smiles. You see, one of the trainers at the gym was talking to me last week and he remarked on how I seemed always to be trying to appear aloof and uncommunicative but he could see that there was always a smile and conversation trying to get out. Which made me laugh. Which made him say, “See?”

I thought about this and realized  he was right. And, too, realized it had been a slow, steady march to this place where I am loath to trust anyone, fearing the end from the very beginning. On further contemplation, I recognized this as part of the emotional patterns and behaviors of the cult of death in which my family has lived ever since my father died when I was a young child. I further realized how I had expanded that cult’s ceremonies and practices myself, elevated it into a religion of sorrow and mourning.

Funnily, while this trainer was telling me about myself, challenging me to shape up emotionally and spiritually, I was standing next to a dear best friend who had said to me before when I asked her what to do; “You just won’t let yourself be happy, I don’t know what else to say to you.”

So, something in me was liberated that day and I have been running around singing and dancing (with myself) and baking cookies and collecting ingredients for various dinners and parties and saying “YES” to invitations and trying to ring those bells. Laugh with me? Or, here you go, you laugh. I have been baking cookies endlessly for the past – seems like five years LOL – and I NEED to get to the gym today.

I have recently become a big fan of certain military members; thank you for your service.

And, while not a huge fan of MOST holiday music or videos, this Broadway-ish one does amuse.

And about saying yes . . .  and ringing those bells . . .

And if military members and deep-throating and half-naked Broadway musical stars and LIZA FREAKING MINNELLI are not QUITE gay enough for you – how about this?

It was on “Meet Me In St. Louis” that Judy fell for Vincent Minnelli, one of her gay husbands, and the two of them produced the only second-generation Gaycon in history, Liza Minnelli. And this . . .  the best of all holiday songs ever sung by the best of all Gaycons ever . . .

And if THAT isn’t happy and holiday and gay enough for you . . . maybe you’re a straight guy? DaveyWavey (you should subscribe to his WickedlyKewl channel here – or at least look at it) to the rescue . . .

And the “flip” side – so to speak – from Chris Thompson. (Subscribe to him too. I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy. I love straight men too.)

Happy. See, I’m smiling . . . (and if you get that THAT was a Jason Robert Brown reference, well then . . . call me? After you watch it below.)

… Sissie-day… a wonderful day in my neighborhood …

December 17, 1918 was a great day in history because on that day was born Frances Elizabeth Smith, later known and loved as “Sissie”.

Sissie

Sissie

If you combined Auntie Mame, Kay Thompson, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Martin, Elaine May, Jo from “Little Women”, Saint Cecilia, Coco Chanel, Kitty Carlisle, Dorothy Kilgallen, and just the tiniest soupcon of Little Edie Beale and you might, just might, begin to get a hint of the wonders of my dearest FES.

She introduced me to reading and theatre and financed my pursuit of and passion for both. She took me to my first musical when I was six; “Carousel” at a high school and my first trip to New York when I was twelve. And she repeatedly took me to see Angela Lansbury in “Gypsy” which changed my life.

She changed my life in incalculable ways and I am grateful every single day to have had her as my champion. I am grateful every day for having had the gift of her unconditional love. I am grateful to have been truly seen and known and having been so, to have all that was seen and known of me so fully appreciated and embraced and celebrated. As I have aged, it has become clearer and clearer to me how very few “loves” of any kind in any category are full and wide and faithful and powerful enough to allow for the sort of connection Sissie and I had, how very few “loves” of any kind in any category give the magical gift of such total acceptance and grace.

Watch this YouTube clip of Angela Lansbury in “Mame” and “Gypsy” – very Sissie! And too, in “Sweeney Todd” which Sissie and I saw on Broadway and in which I later – much later – appeared as Sweeney Todd. So many wonderful memories. Thank you, Sissie. Thank you.

Thank you, Sissie. This day, for me, is the best holiday of all. Following this is an excerpt from my novel, “Libertytown” in which the main character, Parker, discovers that the name “Sissie” is not the same thing as the name “sissy.”

Love and light to all of you.

Sissie's tombstone

LIBERTYTOWN: A Novel (excerpt)

I ran away from my hometown to California at the behest of Annie, another of the many adrift friends I’d accumulated while part of Vincent’s theatricales, who, herself, was escaping from a disastrous marriage to a man who’d signed over all their funds to Scientology, after which he’d left her for a years younger woman. Annie, twenty-nine to my eighteen, was eager to trade coasts, and had accepted a transfer through the nuclear power plant designing firm for which she worked, hoping her luck would change. We headed across the country in her little green Datsun, meaning to see the landscape along the way, but spending rather more time drinking and smoking dope in Motel 6’s than we did sightseeing. We arrived in San Jose, where her new grown-up job was waiting and I arranged the furniture and unpacked the boxes full of stuff her company had paid to ship, a haul into which we had snuck a few cartons of my things as well, feeling like we’d pulled one over on her employers, and we settled into the one bedroom apartment they’d found her, creating a semblance of home.
We made an odd couple. I stayed on the couch, never really looking for a job, subsisting off the money Sissie sent me in her frequent letters from home, at least twice weekly missives filled with gossipy typed news of family and characters from Libertytown, as well as clippings from the Baltimore Sun that she thought I’d find interesting – always including Liz Smith’s gossip column, for which we both shared a slavish devotion, other theatre items, and too, clippings from the local paper about people I knew and the shows they were doing, which I think she meant to draw me back home, and slipped in amongst these without mention, tens or twenties, sometimes as much as fifty. I managed to do little with this cash but keep myself in cigarettes, and too, to overdose myself on Vitamin A in an effort to clear up my acne. I got off the couch long enough to get hired for my voice then fired for my lack of dance ability from a mediocre production of FINIAN’S RAINBOW in which Annie had gotten the ingénue lead role, Sharon. She fit right in to the company, started dating the man who played her father, he of the rainbow, and made friends at her new job, adapting to her new life while I floundered.
In a last ditch effort to make a go, I’d gone into San Francisco to audition for a show. I knew nothing about the city except that it was the Gay Capital of the world and so I expected to be welcomed, heralded even, as if some cosmic memo would have been sent announcing my arrival, the result of which would be that all the already relocated homos would find me a place, snuggle me in there, and show me the shape my life should be with the perfect occupation and lover thrown in for kicks.
The show was SHE LOVES ME, and knowledgeable as I’d considered myself to be in the unsophisticated arena of my tiny home town, I was woefully unschooled in the culture and patois of big city theatre, particularly one dominated by worshippers at the altar of Barbara Cook, who, at the time of my audition I had never heard, an ignorance for which I was held in that special sort of ignominious opprobrium ritualized by theatre queens.

“Well, what role are you auditioning for?” Asked one of the clones, all of whom were dressed in uniform of flannel shirt and too tight jeans, all of whom seemed equally eager to be rid of me, but not without first humiliating me for wasting their time.
“Isn’t there a young guy?”
“Arpad Laszlo, for whom, my dear, you are completely, utterly, and entirely wrong.  He’s a teenage boy.”
“I’m eighteen.”
“With long blonde hair and a very … uhm…-” at which point flannelled disapprover number one looked at flannelled disapprovers two through five as if the search for the appropriate word to communicate my wrongness might just be beyond him. Alas, it was not. “-modern carriage.”
In other words, in the capital of the gay world, I was not only not receiving a parade, I was being told by these royal pre-eminences that I was too light.
“Yes,” too tight jeans two chimed in, “your hair, your bearing, your posture -”
And now, number three joined the chorus, which was not, I suspected, the first time he’d been in that group, a suspicion confirmed by his inability to insult me with an original adjectival code phrase for “too faggy.“

“Your persona is just a little too modern for the role.”
I’d spent enough of my life being disapproved of and snickered at by those who were not my people. Where I’d come from, the kingdom of home where I’d been a prince, one’s own kind – the other societal misfits, didn’t attack this way. It was one thing to be called a big fag, pudding, pussy, cocksucker, etc. by the redneck peons and common folk, but it was almost more than I could take to have one’s own class, the rulers of the aristocracy to which I thought I belonged call me a big, flaming sissy.

I was six years old. I’d led a remarkably sheltered life. We lived on a back road in the country, and other than my family, I knew no one. These were before the days of play groups and day care. My mother didn’t yet work, and my only playmate was Rebecca, with whom I was extraordinarily close. We lived in our own world, with our own language, the two of us having been raised as a couple, separate from the four other sisters and brother, being seven years younger than the next older sibling, and we were content there.
My other friend was Sissie, with whom I spent Sundays and holidays, and in this constricted little world I was the most loved, adored, and cherished of people. I could do no wrong.

When Rebecca and I would spend Sundays with Sissie at Libertytown, we would spend much of the day disappeared into private worlds we’d construct of the debris and rubble of pieces of our ancestors lives which had been left behind in the unused rooms of the manse. From the furniture, fragments and remains which echoed with histories forgotten by generations of Parkers, in rooms no longer used for anything but storage, we would create elaborate universes of make-believe to rule. We were living across the hall from one another in luxury New York apartments, glamorously doing whatever it was that we – at ages four and five – imagined that to be.
We were stars, of course. Most of the time. Less often we were teachers. But whether stars or teachers, we invented Grand Loves with whom we spent the few spare moments we were not busy with each other. Of course, we had no idea what constituted a Grand Love having seen no examples, but we knew from television and movies that having one was a requirement.
They were always men.

It was another something about which the family didn’t talk. They pretended not to notice Rebecca and I both attaching towels to our heads, pretending them to be long, luxurious blonde hair which we would toss with what I would now call a Veronica Lake insouciance, but which I have no idea at the time what I imagined it to be or what compelled me to portray it with such ease. When, ever so rarely, Rebecca would say, “Don’t you want to be a boy?” within our scenarios, I can remember the twisting, knotting within my stomach and the discomfort the notion caused me.
“No. I don’t like boys. They’re stupid.”
“But, you are a boy.”
“I know, but I’m not that kind of boy. I’m this kind.”
I didn’t have words for it. I didn’t have the vaguest notion that I was a category, that there were others like me, but then, in that world, in those rooms, in my tiny little reality, it made no difference. I knew that sometimes when my brother or sister would say something teasing to me about “you walk like a girl” or “don’t you want to play with trucks” my mother would, if she heard it, snap, “Leave him alone.” and the tickle of “not right” I felt about myself would be gone and I could return home to the galaxy Rebecca and I had made.
No matter what the tall, worried grown-ups around us thought I ought to be, Rebecca and I were content and happy in the secret world we inhabited. And as long as we kept one another amused and demanded nothing of the grown-ups around us, they left us to create our own realities, all with the tacit agreement that this was another something about which we did not speak in the real world, this was another something that only the Parker-cabal could understand, this was another something that made the real world a dangerous place in which to share what one knew and was, a place from which we needed to hide, this was another something that made us safe only when we were surrounded by and secreted in one another.
It was easy for us to hold on to the secret treasure of the world we made: we were right and perfect and knew everything. All the tall grown-ups around us had secrets of their own, that much Rebecca and I could tell, but those secrets were the kind that caused whispering and crying and sorrow and disappearing; those were the kinds of secrets that had something to do with the disappearance of that thing everyone else called “Daddy” or, sometimes, “Joe.” Daddy Joe was the absence around which all the sorrowful secrets of the tall people revolved, and Rebecca did not remember him at all, and I was without details, having instead some dreams and shadows and echoes of there having been something, a huge something both wonderful and terrible, all at once, an unfathomably enormous something taken away one night while I was asleep, and the next day, the crying began, a crying which continued for many, many decades until almost none of them were left … and too, that night’s disappearance had stopped a particular kind of music from playing; a music for which I would search and reach for many years until I found a substitute, found it inside my own heart and let it out, a sound I’d make to stop my own crying – at least for a while – but that is many, many stories in between and away from this now, this six year old Parker, and part of the dark secrets about which there cannot yet be discussion. Then, there was just Rebecca, and the combination of secrets kept and told, and as long as we guarded and lived in those, we could be happy.

Then, I went to school.
Those first weeks of first grade, I was the only Catholic who rode along with the forty public school kids, and was segregated to the seat directly behind the driver at the front of the bus which dropped me off on the corner in Libertytown at which was located the bank where Sissie worked, from which Sissie would emerge, take my hand and walk me the two remaining blocks down the side street to Saint Peter’s Grade School.
I did not make friends easily. My first foray into the world outside was not filled with the embrace I had always felt in my isolated existence. It did not help that thanks to Sundays with Sissie and the newspapers and Babar and Roald Dahl books she’d shared with me, I could already read thus setting me even further apart from the other children who made me feel as if I had come from another country, and not one that any of them would like to visit.
I spoke in strange and long sentences of a vocabulary and syntax foreign to the other children, composed of the patterns I’d learned from movie musicals and the books Sissie and I had read together, a borrowed erudition with tellingly sibilant accents and a delivery bordering on British. Somehow, in the process of inventing myself, I’d happened upon an unfortunate combination of Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.
It did not take my peers long to mark me in ways and words I did not know existed. The horror of it began on what was to be the last morning I was ever walked to school by Sissie, who I still believed magical, who reflected the beauty I wanted to believe was inside me, my hand in hers, her by my side, the place I had, until them, always felt safest.
From across the street a group of older kids walking alone called out, “Sissy!” and at first I wondered how they knew her. I was not that surprised. She worked in the bank and was the center of my very small world, it just made sense that everyone would know her, love her, crave her attention as did I. But, the screaming continued, and laughing, and soon enough I could tell from the way Sissie stood a little straighter, eyes determinedly ahead looking at neither the child terrorists nor me, ignoring the sound as if it were not there, the smile on her face which I recognized as that look she wore when someone’s behavior or a piece of news did not fit in with her idea of what the world should be, that look she affected when I would ask a question for which the answer was something she thought I ought not consider, often followed by the phrase, “Honey, don’t let’s worry about that sort of thing,“ combined with the sneering tone of the continuing taunt comprised of what had once been a magical word for me, “SISSY! SISSY! SISSSSSSY!!!!” that my safe world no longer existed.
Frozen moment.
It would be another few years before the verbal attacks became physical and the throwing against lockers and head in toilets and destruction of whatever of my soul or property they could get their hands on would begin. That day though, was the day I learned, that being a “sissy” was not the good thing that being “Sissie” had always meant to me.

And now, here it was again. Another place I was meant to be safe, an audition for musical theatre, and I was being taunted by the older kids.
But, just then, the mustachioed , receding hair lined number four member of the royal flannelled and jeans enclave, this one located at the piano, interceded on my behalf.
“Well, what will you be singing?”
“Mean To Me.” Had I not been so flummoxed and intimidated by the tangible disdain to which I’d been subjected, I’d have delivered the title with irony. As it was, I began to shake. There seemed no point in singing, but I hadn’t the spine to simply walk away. It had always been my m.o. to deplete every ounce of dignity and self-respect I might have, never willing to surrender when only partially eviscerated.
“As in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’? Nell Carter?”
“Yes. Thank you.” I handed him my music and, God bless him, he smiled and patted my hand.
I had not, in my estimation, been given many gifts by God. My skin was bad. My teeth were crooked and after a misadventure with my older brother, my mother had determined that braces were a waste of time. My dick wasn’t huge. My face wasn’t particularly pretty. My body was neither muscled nor well proportioned, just long and there. I was smart enough, but not in a way that had ever been more help than hindrance, operating as it did as a sort of internal intellectual torture team judging me twice as harshly as I’d ever consider judging anyone else. I didn’t have much.
But I had a voice.
Perhaps it was the hours I’d spent listening to Mahalia with my father.     Perhaps it was the years of terror and loneliness in which I’d lived. Perhaps it was God’s way of playing another trick on me, but somehow, inside that thin, paler than a vampire too modern carriaged eighteen year old boy, there lived a fat, black woman. And she could wail.
I started and the flannel queens’ smirking was interrupted by their shock. They were, however, quick to recover, transforming what had been their certainty I would not be able to sing into a haughty dismissal of the freakish disjunction between the singer and the song.
It was left to the as yet unheard from replicant number five to speak. “Well, that’s very … uhh … interesting …though probably not the best song for your type … and, well, I have to be honest … you’re just not what we’re looking for.”
I stood there, uncertain what to do. Paralyzed by embarrassment, terrified. At home, whenever I’d auditioned, I had always known ahead of time that I would be starring in something. Auditioning had been a formality, an opportunity for me to excel. Even at the auditions for the FINIAN’S in which Annie was starring, this same song had been greeted with wild applause from the auditioning committee. If I didn’t have my voice, if that didn’t work, who was I? My devastation and confusion was evident enough to engender sympathy in number three, who said, “Don’t worry, look at Miss Barbara Cook! When she starred in SHE LOVES ME she was a delicate little ingénue and now she’s big as a house and a bigger star than ever – she’s in town next week!”
And to my continuing humiliation and abashment, with no excuse except that my heart was breaking and my brain on pause, I replied, “Who is Barbara Cook?” From the looks on their faces I knew – if it had not been certain before, it now was – that I would never have a parade in this town.
On the way back to San Jose, after that audition, I bought the LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL LP by Miss Barbara Cook and took to memorizing it note for note, inflection by inflection, breath by breath, lyric soprano trill by trill, until I could and would – with very little prompting – imitate her entire oeuvre, but most especially the trio of iconic SHE LOVES ME selections, DEAR FRIEND, WILL HE LIKE ME, and my particular specialty, ICE CREAM during the end of which I would explode into the final three exceedingly stratospheric notes, flitting with breath-taking ease to the F sharp and then defying gravity by flying even further to the high B which I would hold until it seemed I might faint from the effort at which point – without taking a breath – I would portamento smoothly down to the electric final E, all with a most assured and ear-splitting tenacity, a buoyant, dare I say gay élan the likes of which has gotten boys like me dunked in toilets and thrown against lockers since musical theatre began.
It was during one such display of I-IIIIICE-CREAM brio that I began to shake uncontrollably, as did Annie across the room. It was not the result of my vivacious and bravura performance, but rather, my first earthquake. It was barely a quake, more a tremor, but the walls and floor were moving, and nothing I did could stop them as I ran from wall to wall, pressing against them, looking for something solid.
“Stand in a doorframe! Come stand in the doorframe!” Annie shouted, from her perch at the front door, looking out over the second floor balcony walkway to the parking lot below. “Come look! Parker, look at this! All the cars are dancing!“ She was fascinated by the vibrating vehicles, and entranced by the power of it, while I was horrified. I wanted things to hold still. I needed it to stop, and I could feel my guts twisting, my heart beating ever faster as the reality of my complete lack of control and escape penetrated my consciousness.
Even so, as was ever the case, it was my role to be amusing and comforting, and so I joined her on the balcony, screaming, “When I prayed for the earth to move, God, this wasn’t what the fuck I meant.”
And almost as soon as we were done laughing at my witty bon mot, the upheaval had heaved its last. We re-entered the apartment to assess the damage and discovered the only casualty seemed to have been the framed photo of the two of us as Margo Channing and her gay, best friend Duane in APPLAUSE, the musical version of ALL ABOUT EVE, Vincent’s production of which had been the beginning of our best-friendship, which had migrated off the bookshelf and shattered, glass and frame, into shards, on the ground. I cleaned up the pieces, discarded the broken glass and frame, and saved the photo, tucking it away into the sleeve of Barbara’s LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL, the album of which I later discovered to my horror had been scratched by the stereo needle skipping across it during the quake, forever after causing Miss Cook to repeat ad infinitum the high B I’d tried to claim as my own. “He came to offer me,” she’d begin with promise, “vani-illl-la-ah I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I…,” and so on, never getting to the “-iiiiiiice cream.”
Vanilla I.
It should have struck me funny then. But it didn’t.

For years I would tell people it had been that quake, that fear of loss of control that had sent me back to Maryland. But it was not just – or even, especially that, but rather, the seed of doubt about my ability to gain purchase in those more urban spheres of shows and homos which had been firmly planted by my FINIAN and SHE LOVES ME experiences. I needed someplace safe, some place where I knew the walls would stand and the ground, though not always welcoming, was solid. So, home I went, taking my ICE CREAM with me, the tessitura of which resulted in neither the dogs of San Jose nor Annie regretting my decision in February of 1980 to jet back East.