Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Los Pet Shop Boys?


OBK is Spain's Pet Shop Boys.

Watch this.

Am I right? How right am I? On a scale of 1-10?

Fun fact: a bunch of their videos were directed by J.A. Bayona, of the amazing new drama-ghost movie, The Orphanage.

L

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lame Video, Great Song

"I Believe" by Salyu - the vocalist for the ethereal fictitious Lily Chou-Chou - is sooo lovely.

Video soooo lame.

Song, sooo lovely. Go to your local Japanese bookstore and buy it. Or from Yesasia or somethin'.

L

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Low


American Idol's Kellie Pickler, a role model to some, or at least source of entertainment, has illuminated just how stupid and ignorant Americans can be about the rest of the world. I'm seriously worried about the next election.

I'm genuinely depressed.

L
PS - That's the Hungarian flag above. Click the link to understand.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Comics You Should Read


Time for a plug: Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine. Adrian is the twisted mind behind the Optic Nerve series - which frequently feature stories about folks with unhealthy relationships or obsessions - and the last several issues comprise the recently released graphic novel, Shortcomings.

It's friggin' awesome.

And it's released by Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, which I am hoping to visit during this week's trip up to Montreal, where I'm serving as judge on the Image+Nation film festival's jury...

Those of you in Quebec, check out the fest! They have some mighty fine stuff showing this year.

L

Friday, November 16, 2007

Salyu

This Japanese singer provided the vocals for the amazing music from All About Lily Chou-Chou. She has two solo CDs out. And here is a totally crazy-assed, trippy video for one of her songs.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back on the Bus


I really liked Shortbus. My DVD has gone missing from its case, so may have to get another copy.

Meanwhile, took a look back at my feature article on the film and its making, and decided to post it here - since you should see the movie too, if you haven't yet. This is the never before published full version...

L

Get on the Bus

By Lawrence Ferber

Movie directors have gone to extraordinary, unexpected lengths to gain their cast and crew’s trust, or coax performances. Add actor/writer/director John Cameron Mitchell to that ever-growing list of auteurs. While shooting Shortbus, his dramedy about a group of New Yorkers who intersect at a progressive underground salon/sex party – which features explicit, very real sex - one of the lead actors felt that Mitchell should show solidarity by going to the same lengths he expected his cast to.
“She was like, ‘If we have to have sex, you should do something,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘alright, I’ll do something I haven’t done - I’ll eat pussy.’ So I eat pussy for the first time in one shot. I didn’t get turned on, but I realized that from that angle I could see the actors and could continue to direct them from down there, so that was fun.”
The long-awaited follow-up to 2001’s Hedwig and The Angry Inch, and Mitchell’s second feature as director, Shortbus begins as a gay couple, depressed former hustler James (Paul Dawson) and extroverted former child actor Jamie (PJ DeBoy), seek relationship help from a couples counselor/sex therapist, Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee). But Sofia is dealing with her own relationship problem – she’s never had an orgasm with her husband, Rob (Raphael Barker). So her new clients take her to Shortbus, a modern-day underground salon where art, discussion, music, and sex intermingle. At Shortbus, Sofia meets Severin (Lindsay Beamish), an emotionally jaded dominatrix who may hold the key to her G-spot. Meanwhile, James and Jamie welcome a third lover, youthful Ceth (Jay Brannan), into their relationship, much to the chagrin of an across-the-street stalker, Caleb (Peter Stickles), who obsessively spies on them. Can this diverse group of individuals reconcile their love and sex lives… or must they ultimately exist apart?
Sprinkled amongst the cast are some of NYC’s best loved queer and underground performers, including Justin Bond (of Kiki & Herb), drag king Murray Hill, film guru Stephen Kent Jusick (whose real-life event, dubbed “Cinesalon,” served as an inspiration), and musician Scott Matthew. Gorgeous animation sequences by John Bair – an amalgamation of CGI and miniatures depicting the city and its outer boroughs – bridge the film together, which is ultimately a celebration of and valentine to the city and its omnisexual denizens. It’s a place, scene, and population where Mitchell himself came of age, explored his sexuality, and developed as an artist and person.
“In the film, a character talks about New York being the place everyone comes to get fucked, metaphorically or literally,” Mitchell says. “To bend over and see what life has got to give you. It’s the where I came of age, where I first was sexually active. Literally fucked. But it was also a place where I had to prove myself. It’s a brusque, direct city. And that was new to me because I came from a very conservative, uncommunicative environment. Very Catholic, military. There was directness but not a lot of honesty and the city requires honesty to get by. New York is Walt Whitman – I sing the body electric, fuck the world, fuck me. It taught me a directness I didn’t have.”
After starring in, writing, and directing Hedwig, which garnered international acclaim and prestigious film festival awards (at Sundance, the Berlin Film Festival, and numerous others), Mitchell decided that he would exist exclusively behind the camera when it came to his next project (barring unforeseen cameos!). He also decided to incorporate explicit sexuality, which he saw emerging in serious arthouse fare like Patrice Chéreau’s Intimacy and Catherine Breillat’s Romance, but with a humor those titles lacked (“We tried to integrate the sex into the characters’ lives the way it is in life,” he adds). The story and characters would be developed through improvisational workshops, a la the films of Mike Leigh, and the actors playing couples and sexual partners would need to have genuine sexual chemistry together. Mitchell dubbed this ambitious undertaking the “Sex Film Project” and, in early 2003, he, producer Howard Gertler, and casting director Susan Shopmaker held an “open call” via the internet and trade ads, soliciting audition videos from thespians and would-be thespians willing to have real sex onscreen.
Nearly 500 tapes arrived.
Mitchell says that few full-time or professional actors submitted tapes – most maintained other artistic endeavors or careers. “Sook-Yin is a journalist and musician and filmmaker,” he notes. “PJ is a musician. Paul is a writer.” Yet there was one well-known exception: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who since has starred in Mysterious Skin). “It makes sense that the best known actor who auditioned was a former child star,” Mitchell observes, “because they’re the ones caught in a very mainstream box and they’re desperate to break out. Joseph was fantastic. He had a very provocative videotape. I was seriously considering him but there was no perfect consort and I wanted [believable] couples and it didn’t work out with some of the other actors for compatibility. But I think he enjoyed pushing the envelope and I really admire him.”
Aside from chemistry, Mitchell says practical concerns included STDs (everyone who made it to the workshop stage was extensively tested, while background actors who had sex – dubbed “Sextras” – were all preexisting sexual partners) and representing a wide variety of different body types (on the de facto lack of small penises onscreen: “You know, there are a couple of average penises but you have to look. I didn’t really check size when I cast, it kind of turned out that way. And of course the screen does add ten pounds.”).
Once filming began, Mitchell admits a few unforeseen sex-related complications arose, resulting in the occasional comedy of errors. “Some people tried Viagra and took it too early,” he recalls, “so they were on Viagra during some dialogue scene and had to take it again. Some people came by accident, or the camera missed them cumming and we had to do it again.”
Other times, the sex was as good at it gets for both the filmmaker and the actors. “The female orgasms, I think we counted 7 orgasms, real orgasms, onscreen,” he adds. “Only one is simulated. I’m not telling which one.”
During the extensive improvisational workshops, Mitchell encouraged his omnisexual cast (none of whom, refreshingly, are sheepish about their real-life queerness) to incorporate elements of their own lives into the story and characters. Yet DeBoy and Dawson, close friends who became a bona fide couple over the course of the film’s making, stress that it was equally important to not simply play themselves.
“The reason John wanted us to dig around in our own sexual and emotional baggage was to get the authenticity of the character you see,” says Dawson. “He wanted us to be playing things that were important to us and that we were especially equipped to play. But also he was clear from the beginning this wasn’t a reality entertainment project and in order to do this process we were going to have to distinguish ourselves.”
“It was very important to have the characters not be us at all,” DeBoy adds. “That’s why it was such a great experience creatively.”
Dawson and DeBoy shared some pretty intimate experiences with co-star Jay Brannan – famously, a riotous three-way scene during which they sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Singer/songwriter Brannan moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting but became disenchanted and quit. Then a friend spotted a Sex Film Project ad in a trade magazine and thought Brannan, by that point working as a receptionist, might be interested. Brannan was intrigued, albeit intimidated by the real sex aspect. “I thought I’ll send in the audition tape and take it one step at a time,” he recalls. “I believed in what John was trying to do and if it is something I believe in why not. He’s so good at creating an environment that’s safe and comfortable and it’s very validating. For me it was as big or bigger of a challenge and fear to do the acting stuff as sex stuff. Because I’m self-conscious and insecure I’m not that comfortable in front of the camera. But doing this project helped me work through some of that.”
Like Brannan, the Los Angeles-based Beamish (one of the few cast members who identifies as heterosexual – although she’s open to same-sex possibilities) had also grown frustrated with acting in Hollywood. Yet when referred to Mitchell by her friend Miranda July, Beamish flew to New York and joined the in-progress improvisational sessions (she was replacing an actress that dropped out). “I loved and trusted John right away and wanted to help him make his vision come true,” Beamish says. “And it was very affirming to me as an actress. It’s hard, as Jay was saying, to live in LA and audition for shitty TV commercials. But it was definitely like I finally felt like I got to accomplish what I always thought I could do and was given the opportunity to realize my potential.”
Beamish also had an opportunity to do a little bit of method research for her role, learning the ins and outs of the dominatrix arts. “As soon as I learned all the whip techniques I had a huge desire to beat up every man I saw,” she laughs. “It unleashed some latent thing in me!”
All of the actors praise Mitchell and the creative atmosphere that allowed them to journey down sometimes outrageous, provocative directions and come up with some very funny riffs on pop and political culture. But not all of those elements and scenes made it to the final cut. One cut sequence saw Ceth masturbating while cruising online porn ads, text messaging, and instant messaging at the same time when, just as he ejaculates, his mother calls. “It’s a bit of a satire on this multitasking thing that overwhelms us and we end up not being able to communicate at all,” says Mitchell. And a subplot in which the character of Caleb was working as the Bush twins’ personal assistant, constantly communicating with President Bush via a wireless headset (which he’s still seen wearing in the final cut), was excised. “We found that it called too much attention to this character,” Mitchell explains. “It was an editing decision but it’ll all be in the DVD.”
If Mitchell has his way, by the time the DVD hits shelves we will see a revival of salon culture and social-artistic-sexual gatherings in real life, which he feels could inject a little much-needed liberation, connection, and free-thinking and willingness to explore ideas in today’s queer community. “Personally I like a multi-sexual setting,” he says. “I think too many gay men in a room is bad news. People start thinking with their dicks and don’t end up hanging out and relaxing. Same with too many women. But I’m a little disappointed in today’s gay culture. At how conformist it has become. We listen to the same music, have the same clothes, the same bodies, the same bullshit. I was saved by being gay. If I hadn’t been gay I would have accepted all kinds of things I was told. Being gay showed me the world. It opened me up to art, politics, to question religion. Now it just seems to be an entrée to a certain marketing niche, letting people tell you what you’re supposed to like. There’s a lot of diversity and why not use the fact you’re a freak to create.”

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hey You Little Gay Boy

If you haven't yet seen the Sigur Ros video for "Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa," click here and spend seven minutes watching the screen. You'll probably feel a tear or two welling up in your eyes.

Of course it takes an Icelandic band to create something like this.

Sigur Ros' lead singer, Jonsi, is gay. Plenty of free mp3s and stuff on their website, and a new album is out.

L

Neil Gaiman on Gay Men (and Women)

I interviewed comics writer God Neil Gaiman about his film Mirrormask for the gay press a year or two ago. Funny enough, I'm not a huge fan of his writing - I'm more in the Alan Moore/Warren Ellis corner. And Garth Ennis. Dirty dark senses of humor and political edge.

In any case, Gaiman is involved with the upcoming Beowulf film, so out comes my draft of the Gaiman piece... with a bonus cut quote.

L



Dreamweaver

By Lawrence Ferber

In the fantastical new film, MirrorMask, a teenaged girl embarks on a Wizard of Oz/Labyrinth-esque quest in a CGI-generated world of bird-monkeys, human-faced sphinxes, and a witchy diva. But the show stops for a very odd musical number, a version of The Carpenters’ “Close to You” performed by a roomful of creepy, giant music box robot dolls. It’s the most striking, memorable performance of a Carpenters’ tune by dolls since Todd Haynes’ cult classic Superstar. And it’s but one nugget of strange springing from the mind of comics/fantasy literature god Neil Gaiman, who created MirrorMask with longtime collaborator/artist David McKean.
The UK-born Gaiman has folded all sorts of queerness into his work, notably the groundbreaking 1990s The Sandman comic series, which revolved around a skinny, Robert Smith-haired Goth, Morpheus, Master of Dreams. The Sandman’s spin-offs include the 1996 GLAAD Best Comic award-winning “Death: The Time of Your Life,” and the recent Manga (Japanese comics) style “The Dead Boy Detectives,” starring a pair of ghostly preteen sleuths who don drag while investigating a girls’ school.
“For more or less as long as I can remember I’ve had a huge gay, lesbian, and comparatively huge given the small number of them, transgender fans,” Gaiman notes. “These were all my friends and people I knew and didn’t see any reflection of them in the comics I was reading, so I put them into MY comics.” Other highlights include “Murder Mysteries,” a grim tale of sexy gay angels illustrated by out artist P. Craig Russell, Marvel’s 1602, and the short story “Changes,” which was about “the side effects of an anticancer drug that switches your gender and what it would mean when people start taking it recreationally.”
Gaiman, who counts homo horrormeister Clive Barker and Tori Amos amongst his friends, admits some readers have been puzzled by these queer inclusions. “This morning I got an e-mail from somebody who was puzzled by the scene of gay sex in [my novel] American Gods,” he says. “A gay Arab trinket seller and a genie who drives a cab in New York get together. And I thought it was just fascinating getting this letter saying ‘please explain this, why were they gay and have sex?’ Because they were gay and had sex!”
Some of Gaiman’s creations have even had gay sex without his involvement - in “slash” fiction, a genre of fan-scribed stories that sexually pair up real and fictitious characters. “People have sent me links to slash with ME in it,” he admits, amused. “The cutest one was me and Morpheus. Kind of sweet. But there was a me, Trent Reznor and Tori Amos threesome! Slash fiction fascinates me. I remember paging through, with my jaw open, Knight Rider slash. It was David Hasselhoff and the car, and it was all ‘impale yourself in my throbbing gearstick.’ And he did. Repeatedly.”

Cut quote: “The great thing about being a Carpenters fan is it goes beyond being cool or uncool,” Gaiman admits. MirrorMask was directed by longtime collaborator/artist David McKean. “There have been times in my life when it was incredibly uncool to be a Carpenter’s fan, times when it was cool, and then times when it was only cool to be a postmodern Carpenter’s fan so you could have the ‘I Wish I was a Carpenter’ album.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tori Two


I interviewed Tori Amos for the second time in 2002. My first time, for LA Weekly, was a sort of definitive Tori 101 and look at why the fans go ga-ga for her. This was pretty much focused on her album Scarlet's Walk, and for the gay press.

It runs longer than the version published back in the day. Um... it was never spell-checked, either, so a few spelling and grammatical errs.

Enjoy, Tori fans!

L


Scarlet Fever

by Lawrence Ferber

Perhaps taking a cue from Jack Keroauc, fire-haired myth-loving songstress Tori Amos hit the road for her latest album, Scarlet’s Walk (Epic). Through the experiences of an everywoman alter ego, Scarlet, Amos touched upon every state in the nation, connecting with people and the land itself. Boasting Cherokee blood (from mom’s side), Amos’ journey is both spiritual and physical, and Scarlett takes part in soul-searching episodes with young porn stars (“Amber Waves”), manic depressives (“Carbon”), a September 11th-inspired plane crash (“I Can’t See New York”), and a gay friend who dies (“Taxi Ride”). The latter song touches upon the loss of Amos’ real-life gay friend, acclaimed author/makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin (he died in May of 2002).
It’s a dense album - 18 songs - and possibly her best, a melodic and passionate kiss to the USA. Coming off a root canal (“ice cream sundae and Percocet,” she recommends as post-op treatment), Amos made a speaking appearance at New York’s annual CMJ Music Fest on November 1st. Later that day, I spoke with Amos via telephone about Scarlet, Aucoin, and how queerness fits into her -and everyone’s - USA. Incidentally, more songs from Scarlet’s extensive travels can be found on the website, Scarlet’s Web, which you can access with a “key” found on the CD.


I love your new album, Tori.

“Thank you honey.”

And so big, so many songs.

“Yeah - it’s a big country.... and there are more songs [that aren’t on the album]. On Scarlet’s Web now, ‘Tom Bigby’ is up, which is itombi, which means ‘he who prepared the bones for burial.’ So that’s a chocktaw word and that takes place in Mississippi, Alabama terrirtoy. Then we’ve got ‘Seaside,’ that happens over on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. But there are different roads off the path and that will be on Scarlet’s Web. ‘Operation Peter Pan’ made it on the European B-side, that occurs in Miami. Between 1960 and 1962, I think it was, a lot of children were sent from Cuba in this whatever you call it, Operation Peter Pan, experiment. And a lot of people were separated from their families, a lot of children. That’s explored in that song.”

I notice that Scarlet doesn’t go to Puerto Rico, a commonwealth.

“I don’t go to any commonwealths.”

Puerto Ricans are going to hate you for that.

“I love them. It’s in my curl, sweetie. It’s in my curl and in my heel. Always.”

This is the first album of yours, that I’ve been aware, in which you openly address gay people and gay matters.

“I don’t know - I think over the years there have been references to all kinds of sexuality, but on this record there are characters that Scarlet runs into. Her friend, Taxi, is gay and he dies. I think a core theme running through, though, is the outer betrayal versus the inner betrayal. The polarity of that, so in ‘I Can’t See New York’ [in which Scarlet witnesses a plane crash in midair] we see the culmination of outer betrayal that may have stemmed from some kind of inner betrayal. But then in ‘Taxi Ride’ the inner betrayal is taken to friendship where, at his death, Scarlet’s having to look at everybody that’s there and question were we really a good friend to him when he was in need?”

Do you feel you were a good friend to Kevyn when he was in need?

“I question myself every day.”

Kevyn’s friends, by virtue of who they are, pretty much have to be self involved - they’re artists and in the entertainment industry. And I think that in a way it’s almost harder to maintain that kind of I’m-there-for-you friendship, don’t you think?

“Yes. I think that is true. And I think that’s a fair point. I also think, however, that what’s being addressed in the song is that only you can look at your relationship with a friend and know if you could show up. Not when you needed them, but when they needed you. The thing about Kevyn is he always showed up when you needed him. But sometimes I think the question with us as ‘celebrity’ friends, the beauty icon, if he could make you beautiful, great. But if he couldn’t were you really there for him? And that is the question that Scarlet and I are asking ourselves. Talking to you on a personal level, Kevyn is the inspiration, but this is the story of someone Scarlet meets. There’s more than one gay friend that has died that brings up things in people. Death always brings up questions. This is the result. Loss that she has after the public loss everybody went through [during September 11th] in ‘I Can’t See New York.’”

Is there something more you’d like to say about ‘I Can’t See New York?’ Have you already talked that one out?

“No. I think really that’s about is the question of what is permanent. Scarlet’s only a thread. She can be any woman, she bleeds. The men in this record are terra firma, they’re very flesh and blood, they’re real. But the women that are Scarlet, meaning any woman who isn’t, Amber, Carbon, those creatures, that can be America personified and real women. She is shape shifting through these others, crawling inside them, talking through them, penetrating them. So at this stage in the story, trouble’s been brewing. Amber has been making some choices and I think that at a certain point there are consequences to choices you make whether you’re a country or person. In ‘Pancake’ we’re exploring power, all sides of it. And what it can implore you to do. She’s investigating it. She’s toying with it, she’s looking at it. She’s intimidated by it but also drawn to it. And people that may have it and know what to do with it are also people she feels are picking it up and pressing their own agenda with it.”

On the topic of agenda, on this record you’re taking this trip to figure out what these things mean on a whole in relation to the land. What we give, what the earth gives us. How do gays fit into America?

“I think it’s something that may be being redefined right now. You all suffered quite a loss of a lot of people in the 80s, as you know. A wealth of intelligencia, artists, that were core, part of your fabric. And now the next crop is stepping to this metaphorical fire to plant the seeds, to hold spaces for others to come. It seems to me anyway, from the outside, it is about community now and networking. Because those making choices for our world now are networking just fine. And making decisions we may not agree with and may not be good for our true mother, our earth, or us. It seems to me that sometimes in name only we’re the land of the free and this is something the gay community... it’s feet to the fire time. There must be a stepping forward about what you all feel. How you penetrate, say, the culture.”

Do you feel that right now gays give something to the culture?

“Yes I do, but I think there can be more. I think it’s time to stop shying away from your place at the fire of wisdom. I think gays have been very shamed and I know you all feel you can give in fashion and art, but it’s time now for perspective. But you all have to do that work.”

Do you mean on an ecological level? Political?

“I mean every level. But that comes from thought, not just from style. Maybe the thought has to be put forth with a bit of style! But I’m talking about people’s projections and you must as a group make peace with that... I think you all can bring a temperance but not if you’re holding everybody’s guilt. It’s not your job anymore.”

Did you see Kevyn making a difference?

“Absolutely I saw him making a difference. He inspires me every day.”

How did he make a difference?

“He wanted to see someone’s goals. Each individual had goals, he believed that, and beauty. He would find the beauty in someone who couldn’t find any in themselves and then show it for them to look at.”

In a superficial, external way?

“But don’t you see, it might have been the way that they giggled that he was able... he was a painter, one of the master painters of this generation. He painted faces, but he could’ve painted something on a rhino’s butt and it would have been beautiful. He could do that in his sleep. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m suggesting is perhaps Kevyn found that nugget, that element, that real treasure someone had and found a way to paint it. By the eye, a glitter, so when they looked it was metaphorical for what it was. It was symbolic and they knew what it meant. That was his gift.”

Did Kevyn have a hand in the Strange Little Girls’ looks from last album? You were transformed into a different girl persona for each song you covered...

“Her look was designed by Kevyn and Karen Benz (sp?).”

That must have been fun, going for all the various sessions.

“It was. We had backstories on these girls for months and months and they were alive. They were the anima of these songs.”

Have you ever inhabited a gay persona or character, Tori?

“That’s a good question. I think some of the little girls are.”

Which ones?

“I have to go talk to them. But they certainly aren’t... they don’t all have one orientation, that’s for sure. And they all don’t get along either.”

Is Scarlet queer perchance? Bi-curious maybe?

“Right now I think more than anything she’s about being a good friend. Whether Amber does whatever she’s been doing and Taxi’s been doing whatever he’s been doing, they’re some of her closer friends and that’s where that sits.”

Thanks Tori!

“Don’t be a stranger!”

Monday, November 05, 2007

Say Boo!


Musically I'm a huge Anglophile. For some reason, the music I first connected to - as a teen during the mid-1980s - all seemed to come from the UK. I ached to visit London until my first trip there in 1992, when I spent hours upon hours in every record and CD shop in sight.

One of those UK bands I loved so much was The Bible. The frontsman, Boo Hewerdine, has become a very gentle folk artist since his more plugged-in The Bible days. He's also collaborated with and written songs for other artists, including Danny Wilson's Gary Clark, another of my late 80s/early 90s faves. One of The Bible's defining songs is "Graceland." Great pop. And some music journalist noted Hewerdine's slight air of Morrissey within the vocals. You be the judge!

Lots of other free mp3s, from The Bible and his solo and collaborative work, and info on Hewerdine's website. Enjoy...

L

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Supercar!

I love that the Japanese can be wackier than, well, anyone. My ex boyfriend's boyfriend spent a while in Japan bought a ton of CDs. I got turned on to a whole bunch of Japanese bands thanks to his indulgences, one of them being alt-rock band Supercar. They change a bit from album to album sound-wise: shoegaze, upbeat Phoenix-style pop, guitar-driven rock....

Here's a crazy Supercar video for "Wonderword"!

Are you hooked yet?

L

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Singapore a Song!


What is the deal with all the Singaporean teens posting vids of themselves lip-synching pop songs? The bar has been raised, a new benchmark set: a bunch of Singaporean Communication/Media students performing an elaborate one-shot take of Rhianna's "Umbrella." Wow, are a lot of them queens. Especially the one who does the creepy 'taint rub thing at the end. You know nobody dared challenge his being the lead of sorts. Take a look, it's totally insane.

L

iPod on Fire

There's a new single by one of my favorite Australian bands out: "Hearts on Fire" by Cut Copy.

I played it so many times in a row on my iPod that the drive started skipping and went batshit. I had to restart, then showed it who's boss by playing it another dozen times.

Every record label in the world needs to come together for a summit with iTunes and all the other digital music shops and figure out an international distribution scheme, because at present this awesome single is only available via the Australian iTunes shop (a limitation, as with so many other albums all over the world, unavailable to other iTunes territories). Doesn't this actually force someone to find a pirated copy online or a torrent? Hello! There are hundreds of albums and singles I would happily pay for if there was one big international iTunes or other mp3 shop. Get on it. Make money, labels and artists!

Meanwhile, make due by watching the band perform it live in Perth
.
L

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lance Bass

My Lance Bass story will be popping up in some LGBT mags and papers over the next week or two. Windy City Times is running pretty much the full-length version, so get a look-see. :-)

Comments appreciated!

L

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Comic Is Out


"Life Lessons #24," the 2-page autobiographical comic strip I wrote, illustrated by Robert Kirby, has been published in queer comics compilation Juicy Mother 2. Available at bookstores, comic shops, and online via Amazon, etc. Some great work in there by other artists and writers I love including Howard Cruse, Ariel Schrag, and of course editor Jennifer Camper...

Enjoy!

L

A Little Love For Dannii


With Kylie's 2008 album on the horizon, and endless bloggage dedicated to the leaking songs and videos, it seems time to balance things out with a little lovin' for her sibling, Dannii.

I interviewed Dannii in 2003, when her "Neon Nights" was hitting USA stores. Yeah, kinda sorta on the heels of Kylie's USA "comeback," Fever. She was perfectly charming, albeit a little over-friendly-flaky ("Oh yeah, when you come to London call me and we'll go to G.A.Y. together!"). At the time my boyfriend Matt and I were obsessed with Kylie lookalikes, and there was a pretty good one in the video for Simply Red's "Fake," (at 2 minutes in) so I had to whip out the laptop for Dannii's opinion on how accurate she was. (pretty good lookalike! but kind of poignant, because not a lot of, if any, Dannii lookalikes out there...)

In any case, here's the full version of that Dannii interview. And let's not forget her - she's got some nice pop stuff too!

L
PS - Those Britney observations were pretty prophetic of Dannii...


Dannii, Boy!

by Lawrence Ferber

What exactly IS Dannii Minogue beginning to wonder?
“Is Britney OK at the moment? She seems really not happy,” ponders the multitalented Australian export, concern swathing her face. “I wish she would just be like, you know, I need a few years to be wild. I’ve done the Mickey Mouse thing and I’m escaping, but she seems to not be happy.”
Actually, a more pressing point of wonderment would be “when the hell are people in the USA gonna know I exist?” Well, let the wondering, desist!
Neon Nights (Ultra Records) is Minogue’s - yep, Kylie’s little sister - first USA release to be properly marketed, and it’s a sexy, poppy, dancey, 80’s retro and feverish (couldn’t resist!) affair breaking through fast and fierce. It’s probably the first you’ve heard from and of Dannii, yet like big sis Kylie, she’s been an busy international star since childhood.
“Unfortunately, you guys have got me after I’ve been on the road for a year and a half, so I’m a little bit tired,” the petite brown haired, blue-eyed UK-based Minogue admits with a very intact Australian accent, retiring on a couch in her Tribeca Grand suite. The rest of her interviews canceled for the day due to weariness from a relentless schedule of promotion and rehearsal, we have an unrushed, casual conversation, touching on her beginnings, her sibling (of course!), Neon Nights’ just announced Aria (Australia’s Grammy) nomination for best pop album, and first fame in a country bizarrely unaware of her long, diverse career. “I guess [being here] encapsulates a lot of different emotions because everyone’s saying ‘America, America, yeah!’ And you’re kind of like ‘yeah!’ but...”
Minogue’s in New York for the Billboard Dance Summit, at which she performed a rousing set of Neon Nights’ already-chart-hits-overseas including “I Begin to Wonder,” “Put The Needle On It,” “Who Do You Love Now,” (a 2001 smash done with Dutch trancemasters Riva) and “Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling,” a song recently fused with Madonna’s “Into The Groove” by French pop/production wonderkids Neimo. The tunes are bubbly and catchy as hell, and Minogue’s an energetic, and accessible, presence, with perhaps a touch more urban edge than big blonde sis.
“I’m a lot more spicy!” Minogue giggles, admitting she’s irked when people insinuate that she’s a Kylie clone. A day prior, a woman at a radio station flipped out, babbling on and on about how much she resembled Kylie. “I know we look similar, but I don’t see that. I see that we’re so totally different and I laughed and said to her, people who know the whole family - there’s a brother, Brendan, in between - there’s more similarity between me and him. I can sometimes step back and be objective and say yeah, they’re both in the same pot, but I guess the thing is we just try to do things our own way which ends up being similar. Same parents! It happens!”
Born Danielle Jane Minogue in October of 1971, she entered showbiz as a child actress on Australian TV shows “Skyways,” “The Sullivans” (alongside Kylie), and Mickey Mouse Club-esque “Young Talent Time.” Her first recordings appeared on “YTT” albums (she covered Europe’s “The Final Countdown” on one!), and by age twelve Minogue had her own fan club: for years, Kylie was referred to as “Dannii’s sister.” Come 1988, Minogue tried her hand at fashion design - her eponymous line sold out in ten days. More recordings and a plum role as Emma Jackson on Aussie soap “Home And Away” followed. Come 1990, she went gold: that year’s Love and Kisses album sold 60,000+, and within a year she racked four Top 15 singles on the UK charts. Minogue packed her bags and headed to London, her home and base of operations since.
“The funniest thing I look back on was just getting on that plane from Australia with one suitcase, packed for a three week promo trip and thinking nothing of it,” she reminisces. “‘I’ll visit London, then I’ll go home.’ Twelve years later I’m still living there. When you look back, life sometimes pushes you in a direction even though you feel like you’re pushing it.”
1993’s Get Into You album netted a Top 10 hit, “This is It,” but Minogue took a break from musical chores to present on BBC’s “Fan TC,” Big Breakfast’s Eggs on Legs road tour, and a Disney TV special. She also dedicated time to her two-year marriage to Aussie actor Julian McMahon (Charmed), which ended in a burning, painful split. In their breakup’s wake, stirring up some controversy (and massive money, she’s admitted), Minogue did a pictorial for Oz’s Playboy Magazine (which sold out within days of release). She also kept busy with a topless calendar (which moved 50,000+ units), more TV work on shows like Scoop, MTV’s Hanging Out and Electric Circus, and a UK clothing line. 1997 saw the release of disco-pop confection, Girl, revered by many fans as her best album yet, marking a pivotal change in sound. A stage gig as Rizzo in the Grease Arena Spectacular took her back to Oz for a spell, but she returned to Europe for her first tour, Unleashed ‘98.
An international superstar from Europe to Japan to Oz by this time, Minogue was asked to perform at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. “I was on the stage with forty lesbian dancers and it was beautiful because they were all dressed kind of naked, just with leaves covering,” she recalls. “All these lesbians were coming up and kissing me, going ‘my God, for the first time we’ve had the stage, it’s not all been about the boys in Sydney.’ The following year I did the song for the Mardi Gras’ CD, ‘Everlasting Night,’ and the video was me having a kiss with a girl and that made the six o’clock news. The fact there were drag queens kissing in it they didn’t even mention, but I was kissing a girl so that was a big deal!”
Minogue got more deeply involved with vaginas (the word, at least) when she took an acclaimed role in The Vagina Monologues. Asked if she would mind a little more intimate vaginal action, Minogue begins to wonder. “Would I? I don’t know, I’ve never had any feelings for being with another woman. I’ve definitely seen some cute girls, I definitely appreciate girls and can look at girls and go wow, amazing. But not yet.”
That said, the homo boys and drag queens are an unquestionably essential component of Minogue’s life. “I’m having a birthday party, and a friend said ‘I was thinking we should have a tarot card reader’ and I said ‘no, I need some drag queens! I don’t care what else we have, I have to have drag queens for my party otherwise it is NOT a Minogue party!’”
Minogue in fact spends much of her professional and down time with two longtime gay friends, Terry Ronald and Ian Masterson: they co-write and produce on her albums (you can view a photograph of the trio together, drunk on martinis, in the “Dannii Snaps” section of “I Begin To Wonder”’s single).
One of the trio’s Neon Night’s songs, the ballad “It Won’t Work Out,” takes on an especially poignant resonance for Minogue, as co-writer/producer Ronald was diagnosed with cancer during its recording. “He went into hospital to start chemo, and the record company wanted me to go back in and write a third verse for the song,” she recalls. “I got to the studio with the other guy, Ian but it’s always the three of us together all the time, that’s how we come, so it was so weird [for only two of us] to be sitting there. We didn’t know if he was gonna survive the chemo and writing the third verse, it was so hard! A line in the third verse says ‘I’m losing my best friend’ and at that time I really didn’t know if he was gonna live. The good news is he survived it, got rid of the cancer, and we’re having our birthday together. So whenever I sing that song live, for me it’s so powerful just to go through that whole thing of not knowing.”
Come 2001, dropped from her record label, Minogue was enlisted by Riva to sing “Who Do You Love Now,” a single that took her to #3 on the UK charts and permanent crossover into the dance world - no mean feat, Minogue insists, due to the territorial, cliquish nature of today’s London’s DJs (“they don’t want the pop people passing over into the dance world.”). A recording offer from London Records followed, and after pondering the prospect of reviving her musical career full time, Minogue chomped the bit and began writing songs.
Neon Nights was produced and co-written by several different teams, including Sweden’s Murlyn, Paris’ Neimo, and Terry Ronald and Ian Masterson. She doesn’t see much similarity to Kylie’s fever in Neon Nights, barring the fact “it’s a pop dance thing and a party vibe,” and is most adamant about the fact neither sister’s success has enabled the other’s. After all, the sisters have taken turns overshadowing each other in the fame game. “I think it’s been ironic timing [with Neon Nights coming after Kylie’s big Fever success], but whatever success I’ve had is because I’ve sung it, I’ve written it and gone out and done it. It’s not because of Kylie. It just doesn’t work like that. In fact, I think it’s harder! ANY female artist in the UK, after the success of Fever, was under a lot of pressure because every record company said ‘we want one of those!’ But the special thing about [Fever] is Kylie - what she did to it, puts into it and gets out of it. The song ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ was turned down by many, many people before Kylie chose it, and it’s her special magic that made it that huge. With anyone else singing it it just wouldn’t have been like that. It’s the same as whatever I do with Neon Nights is what I’ve put into it and get out of it. No one else can do that for you, no one.”
Of Neon Nights’ sexy dancey sound and lyrics, Minogue admits that turning thirty was a major motivator. Whereas her friends panicked, asking if she wanted to “run and hide,“ “I said no way, I’m having a huge party, I feel fantastic. I wanted it to be a little bit retro, because that was a fun time for me, the early 80s. I wanted it to feel sexy because that’s how I was feeling! It’s a little time capsule to forever keep that.”
“Put The Needle On It” epitomizes Minogue’s intentions, with whispery, slinky vocals, a sultry baseline, quirky popping sounds and its clearly euphemistic chorus. Well, clearly to English speakers. “Whenever I go to Germany they’re like, ‘what does it mean?’ It’s so cute! What do you mean what does it mean? So I’m like look, it’s not really about putting a needle on a record! Think about it! A lot of Europeans love it, but are very confused.”
“Vibe On” is somewhat confusing for those not in on its origins. It’s something of an inside joke borne from a scene in the Howard Stern film, Private Parts. Stern has a woman straddle a speaker between her legs, boost the sub-bass, and he speaks through the speaker so she feels the good vibrations. “Tomorrow I get to go on the Howard Stern show,” Minogue reports excitedly, “and play it for him which is really weird because all around the world my parents have had to see me go on late night chat shows and the host would turn around and say ‘so what is this song about your vibrator?’.”
Knowing Stern, he may well slip her a vibrator as well... but Minogue doesn’t need one. “No, I’ll stick with men,” she laughs. “I exchange them instead of exchanging batteries! Single and dating, a lot of fun.”
Speaking of dating, romances have since included Formula One racer Jacques Villeneuve and former Bros. member (and Pink manager) Craig Logan. Currently, there’s at least one guy Dannii’s giddy about getting a vibe on with: Justin Timberlake. In fact, the overseas press was abuzz with rumors that the Minogue sisters tag-teamed the ex-N’Syncer following the Brit Music Awards. Kylie got her tush groped while performing a duet of Blondie’s “Rapture” with Timberlake (whom later remarked, "On a scale of one to 10, Kylie's bum is 58."), whom later left in a car with Dannii. Said evidence aside, Dannii attests their relations with Timberlake remain platonic, and the sisters have rarely cared to pursue the same bloke.
”We like really different guys,” she insists. “Kylie likes bad boys, scruffy around the edges. I like clean-cut guys. The only two... no, three guys we’ve ever both gone ‘he’s cute’ about were Justin, David Beckham, and Freddie Ljungberg. Have you seen Freddie’s new pictures from the Calvin Klein underwear campaign? He’s taking over from Travis! I should have brought you...” Minogue begins rifling through a pile of international papers on the coffee table for evidence, then widens her eyes dishily and sits back on the couch. “There’s a big rumor Freddie is gay,” she nods, having shaken off all traces of the weariness betrayed when I first arrived.
Clearly, there’s plenty more to wonder about...

See www.danniimusic.com for info, music and videos!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Queer Music (and Heartbreak) Flashback


Ever have a relationship with someone who just wasn't ready for you? (or would never be ready for you? or just wasn't into you?) But you had something going for a while and it was both amazing and sucked because of the above?

Yeah, well thanks Kitchens of Distinction for a song I could play over and over and identify with/see meaning in back when that shit was a-going down with me in the early-to-mid 90s. "Drive That Fast."

Beyond that, Kitchens of Distinction is one of the best indie guitar bands ever, led by a homo by name of Patrick Fitzgerald. "Drive That Fast" is one of their best songs. Patrick has worked on a bunch of other projects, and is still active with Stephen Hero. You can download a bunch of stuff - which I had gone nuts to find for a while on CD - at the SH website.

If you haven't heard of Kitchens of Distinction before, click already!

L

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Melissa Etheridge Interview is Everywhere!

Wow - my gay regional Melissa Etheridge interview has blown up! Even Yahoo has done a write-up about it and some of the more interesting/provocative bits.

The Advocate is going to quote it as well.

And Germany's L-Mag is going to run a German-language version soon.

Let's see if my upcoming Annie Lennox interview fares as well! :-)

L

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Exclusive on Britney Spears

Oy, Britney.

I haven't heard an "oy" about her yet.

So there, I've contributed.

L

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Baila Mi Corazon


Go to Mexico City, and you're going to hear this sweet little ditty in the Zona Rosa gay bars/clubs: "Baila Mi Corazon" by Belanova.

And how awesome is it that you can find all their albums on iTunes in the USA?

May I also plug the indie pop band ZOE? Their album is totally fab, and also on iTunes and in record stores' Latin sections.

L

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cher and Cher alike


Where is Cher? Isn't she doing anything to upstage Britney for a couple of days? Come out, Cher! I had the chance to interview her - during a period where I started to become the diva interviewer du jour of the gay regional press - when she released a self-written album that nobody listens to today. She was HUGE at the time. And when she called me from her cell phone, en route to the Hollywood Bowl for some rehearsal, it was pretty exciting. I wasn't even much of a fan, especially when held up some friends of mine, but I did like "Believe" and was curious to see what she was made of. I love that she felt one of my questions was completely absurd (it was!). Anyways, Cher fans enjoy this full version, and likely unseen until now, of the Cher interview!

L
PS - I just learned that eccentric ol' Vincent Gallo is selling copies of the issue of HX Magazine in which I interviewed him for $75 or more, autographed. So I'm gonna post the never seen big fat Gallo piece with some details about his going eccentric on me (well, his film's distributor at least) circa Brown Bunny. For the record, he's a pretty great conversationalist, and uses a lot of superlatives. It's a shame he goes all eccentric on people.



Unbelievable

By Lawrence Ferber

We believe in life after love, love after sex (well, so long as his breath doesn’t stink) and CHER. And because she knows we’re hungry while awaiting the official March 2001 follow-up to Believe, the diva’s decided to share an intimate set of pre-vocoder recordings: not.com.mercial.
not.com.mercial’s creation began in 1994, when Cher absconded to Miles Copleand’s castle outside Bordeaux for one of his bi-annual songwriters’ conference/collaborations. There, having always scribed poetry, the never-aging diva learned to set her writings to music. And after collaborating with songwriter Bruce Roberts, Timbuk 3’s Pat MacDonald, and Letterman’s band, she had an album’s worth of songs which touched on her WWII vet grandfather (“Fit to Fly”), a period during her infancy spent in a Catholic orphanage (“Sisters of Mercy”), one of her daughter’s ex-girlfriends (“Disaster Cake”), and the tragic loss of Kurt Cobain (“(The Fall) Kurt’s Blues”).
Dance fans take note, however: Believe it’s not. Instead, think Joni Mitchell, with plenty of guitar strumming and campfire spirit, not to mention a personal and impassioned Cher we’ve not heard before. In fact, it’s such a Cher we’ve not heard that Warner Brothers wouldn’t touch it, so Cher’s selling the disc herself through her official online store/site - www.cher.com – and ARTISTdirect Network’s www.cherdirect.com. And she believes that…. Well, you can read below for that, as it was with great pleasure that Cher gave yours truly a call (keeping a “troop of 70 people waiting” while doing so) to discuss her album, her acting, and love.

Tell me about not.com.mercial in a way you haven’t told anyone else.

CHER: “I was actually listening to it and what I realized is that I’m not so sure it’s a very good album. It’s kind of like stories that are song instead of stories that are told. I’m just not sure how musically important it is. I just think the stories are very interesting and worthwhile, but I’m just not sure like if I were a critic, I’m not so sure how I would critique it… We did the whole thing in 2 days with the guys from the Letterman band – we were just making demo. And it was kind of like a garage thing, you know what I mean? It was a studio but it was very do it yourself kind of deal.”

Did you write the poem to the song?

“I actually wrote the bodies and the ideas pretty much before we put them to music and then while we were doing the music sometimes I would have to change them… mostly the essence and majority of them, like ‘(The Fall) Kurt’s Blues’ is exactly the way I wrote it. ‘Sisters of Mercy’ is pretty much exactly the way, and a lot of them are pretty much exactly the way I wrote them.”

What sorts of poems and feelings and thoughts and stories didn’t make it to the album?

“There was one, a really great one but we never finally finished it. It was called ‘Obviously Caucasian’ that I wrote about my son. Because he’s running around like some guy from East LA and yet he’s this blonde haired, green eyed, palest person you ever saw, so I just wrote this song about him with this really cool guy named Bink who was at the castle, but we never really got it together. There’s another song I wrote about myself called ‘Phoenix’ that I got the words, but never quite could pay enough attention to get it into real song form.”

Tell me about “Disaster Cake.”

“[Chastity’s ex-girlfriend] Heidi was in a really bad place and she was staying at my house – this is after they broke up and she was staying with me and just headed for a really bad situation, so I wrote ‘Disaster Cake’ about Heidi. She heard it when I first did it – she thought it was funny.”

I guess it is kind of flattering, isn’t it?

“The words weren’t things I hadn’t already told her exactly. We did this whole thing – she said ‘what could you possibly know? You’ve never even seen the Grateful Dead!’ I just thought that was very amusing, so all the things I told her were things I had told her – they just weren’t rhyming.”

Sisters of Mercy is about growing up in an orphanage with nuns?

“Well, I didn’t grow up there. I spent some time there, I’m not exactly sure [how long] because my mother doesn’t really like to talk about it too much, it might have been anywhere from three months to 6 months to 8 months. I’m not sure.”

Were there lesbian nuns?

“I have no idea – I was a baby.”

Are any of the songs dedicated to Sonny?

“The last one he wrote – ‘Classified A.’ In 1970.”

I read that Believe was “repaying” gay fans by being such a dancey, high energy album. Who is not.com.mercial repaying?

“Actually, that was a portion of it. And the truth is not.com.mercial is not really for anybody specifically – it’s for myself. One thing that I’ve noticed about myself, and gay people that have been my friends, is that we’ve both been through emotional turmoil in our life and so I think that they can quickly access emotional values.”

What sort of relationship do you have with Chastity now? I understand it’s close, but do you approve who’s she dating?

“We’ll, it’s none of my business. I actually happen to like Stacey a lot because I think she’s really good for Chaste, I think she’s a really nice girl, but my mother couldn’t tell me what to do, I can’t tell either one of my children what to do.”

Who has better taste in girlfriends? Elijah or your daughter?

“Oh God. (pause) I’m trying to think, it’s kind of hard because Elijah is into quantity right now, so it’s very difficult to pin him down with girls, and Chaste is very monogamous.”

What about your own taste in relationships?

“You know, I don’t have taste in relationships, I just like people and think that you come in contact with people you’re supposed to be with and you learn something from them if it’s a moment or ten years.”

Are you dating?

“No, I’m working. Not that I’m not going to – very soon! – but right now I start at about eight o’clock in the morning and I finish about ten o’clock at night and that’s kind of the way my life has been.”

Are you more of a romantic or a sleaze?

“Oh, I’m much more of a romantic.”

What to you is a romantic night?

“Oh. (pause) The movies always play some part in it. Cristal, the movies, popcorn, M&Ms and sex.”

Who’s been the best kisser in your films?

“Sam Elliot.”

How did Nick Cage fare?

“I guess Nicky was OK. I don’t remember.”

Did you kiss Meryl in Silkwood?

“Meryl and I never had any relations because she was in love with Kurt so I was always kind of rebuffed.”

Was that upsetting? Could you get into that feeling?

“No, because truth was I was kind of like the little sister to both of them. My character was very non-sexual in a strange way. I had a girlfriend in the movie but all I ever did was get made up.”

Would you rather marry a gay man or another woman?

“Oh my god, that’s the most absurd question I’ve ever heard. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the human being. It has nothing to do with the title, it has to do with the person.”

Have you fallen in love with women?

“No. I’ve had great best friends that I adore and love but no.”

Definitely a man’s woman.

“Definitely, yeah. I mean I love women and admire them and think they’re brilliant, but I’m definitely a man’s woman, or woman’s man or whatever.”

Have you been pursued by gay men or women?

“Not really so you’d notice. I’ve got so many gay friends, I’m always hanging out with them, we’re all very close, and I’ve got… every kind of friend you’d imagine.”

I’ve heard several people make the joking remark ‘after the nuclear holocaust there will only be cockroaches and Cher.’ Your response?

“I just think it’s adorable. It made me laugh so hard the first time I heard it. I think it’s great.”

Is Cher indestructible?

“Not really, but don’t tell anybody.”

What’s happening with the acting career right now, Cher? I heard something about a film called Breakers you were up for.

“It was a movie I was gonna do with Jennifer Aniston but neither of us liked the way the script came out so we both just walked away from it. Actually, I’m going to direct and star in a movie in the fall called The Enchanted Cottage. It’s about when you love someone, no matter what you look like, you’re beautiful to the other person and it’s kind of a fairy tale.”

How do you feel about your writing now that you’ve put songs to tape, and how will that attitude affect your follow-up to Believe?

“It really won’t affect it in any way because, look, I wrote the second verse to ‘Believe’ so it’s not like I don’t do it, it’s just not the main focus of my life. I rewrite all the movies I’m in – there’s moments in every movie that I’ve had to be able to change or readdress because I have kind of a strange speaking pattern. By luck or whatever people always allow me to make changes and stuff.”

Do you consider yourself a control freak?

“Oh… not really.”

So it’s more like customizing things to your capabilities?

“Yeah, I know when I really can’t say or do something. I’ve got limitations, I know that.”

Is there any recent creative conflict that comes to mind?

“The last conflict I can remember was on ‘Believe’ where they didn’t like the vocoder thing and I kind of said ‘you can change this over my dead body,’ basically. They were afraid people wouldn’t know who I was but I said eventually they will know who I am.”

Now everybody’s using that darned thing. I think they should rename it the ‘Divocoder.’

“Well, in England they call it the ‘Cher effect.’ I heard [Madonna use it on Music], I thought it was kinda cool.”

What was it like to have no conflict?

“It was pretty exciting.”

Did it spoil you?

“No, it was a one time deal, but I like conflict.”

It’s part of the artistic process.

“Yeah. Art is so in conflict, it’s like telling an oyster not to be in conflict – well, then you don’t get the pearl, do you?”

Another absurd question. Did you design the finale of your last concert – the big Believe number – to be the gayest moment in concert history, which it was? That’s going to be looked back on in 1000 years.

“(laughs hysterically) No, I never even think about that kind of stuff.”

Is the rumor true that you’re planning another tour?

“Well, I don’t know. I’m going to the Forum right now to rehearse the show, but then I go to London in November to finish my album and might do a small tour in June or July. [Right now] I’ve got a couple of concerts, and I’m doing this thing for the President in New York at Roseland on the 25th.”

Oh, the election. It’s looking scary. Your feelings?

“I almost would leave the country if Bush won.”

Me too. And the final cliché: do you believe in life after love?

“I absolutely do.”

No elaboration on that?

“No. It’s just simple.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Courtney Love Interview


I interviewed Courtney some years ago about her solo disc, America's Sweetheart... and I think it speaks for itself. It was done via e-mailed questions which were delivered back to me, although it's unclear whether Courtney sat there typing herself of dictating to a someone or other. All I know is I was NOT disappointed with what came back to me.

In fact, here is the Q&A response, and then the (coherent) feature I turned it into.

Love the love!!!

Love the 'uuugggg'!

L


1) Was this a "passion album?" How much of it is personal versus fictional or inspired by other people's experiences?

“That's a ‘process’ question - I have never answered a ‘process’ question in my life. I gossip, my process is nobody's business - figure it out!”

2) Did any of these songs begin as Hole songs, or were they conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart?

“All the songs were conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart. I didn't write a song for years. I sat home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’ then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and then I just kept writing.”

3) What did you get to do in solo mode that was different or special than Hole?

“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway. I am a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby (she wrote ‘Life Despite God’ - AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda)

5) Uncool - what is uncool? Like the anti-gay marriage initiatives President Bush backs up?

“(laughs) No uncool for me. Well, it’s very hard for me to write a straight-up relationship song, probably because it’s hard for me to have a straight-up relationship. There was a time when I snapped at my band Hole. We were in a cubicle at the Billboard Awards and Garth Brooks was in the cubicle next to us, he was grateful to be there, without being ass kissy, and I snapped. I didn't want to be so cool about being on TV, I didn't want to pretend. SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Gardens [because] I sold it out!!!! It is about Honesty - and if Neil [Young] can do it with ‘Heart of Gold’... Anyway, I want to be on the Top 40, there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons, I am not living a lie. There is a young artist I know - at the very least she is bisexual - and she wanted to do a duet with me and I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT’ - at least as a bisexual - and she wouldn't. I do not know why. There is a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I have tried to come out but nobody believes I am a lesbian - but nobody believes me - it is like I have COCK written on my forehead.”

6) Is your Hole all closed up, or just relaxing after so much action?

“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I am just doing my kegel exercises. There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”

7) There are dashes of Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks on this album (The Plague and Never Gonna Be The Same, respectively), both being very quintessential rock star gals. How do you compare to those two? And are they your influences?

“That is OUTRAGEOUS – ‘The Plague’ aka Life despite God is a BLUES song - it was 3 hours long, about being left in a whorehouse alone. Get new ears - put your new ears on - DREAM ON!!!! Maybe Janis copying Sonhouse MAYBE or copying Bessie. In that song Linda and I are white woman stuck in a whorehouse - we drank tequila...and that song was born.”

9) There's a lot of actor/singers out there, but they generally have one public image/persona. You have two - the brash rock star, the demure and glamorous actress. Are there two Courtneys? Discuss how you reconcile these two people.

“I never used my sexuality to sell records. I am feeing single, frisky and pretty. I have always wanted to be pretty. As I get older I get prettier. I go between tee shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself. The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically - ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me - more than masculine stuff - I am so big I love feeling petite.”

12) Who would be your dream lesbian affair?[

“Somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant - she would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”

15) Which songs did you do with Linda Perry, and how did you like working with her?

“Linda Perry is what I have been waiting for most of my life and when we were in San Francisco at the same time - she is secretly mad at me for us not hooking up at that time - she started rock star. I watched her do these things - watched some fail, some succeed - most successful positive experience of my life. We walk in the room and write songs together. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers? She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. There is the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She bellows, I am flat a lot - we compensate for each other - she doesn't knock into me with the lyric thing. When Linda contributed lyrics (like the first line in ‘Sunset Strip’) she really contributed. I NEVER let anyone in my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it and she made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, but he is Bernie and that is different.”

16) Pink told me that Linda has a way or dragging one's demons out and into a record. Did she do the same to you?

“No no no no no. Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship. My job is to drag Linda's demons out. I’m not knocking her ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons and she helps temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”

17) If so, what was her technique?

“I hold everyone down and I let Linda go nuts.”

18) And how was working with Bernie Taupin? Did he share any Elton John gossip?

“Elton John is my friend, a really good friend of mine. He saved my ass on a few occasions. Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show and Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way - she is in.’ At one pause when I was on his piano and singing ‘Bitch is Back’ and I looked at Elton and said ‘you're really good in bed’ and he said ‘yeah.’ I was supposed to sing ‘Don't Let the sun go Down On Me,’ which I did, but there was only photos of me in the duck suit. John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume. The Galliano dress was pure perfection. He is Bernie Taupin - it is funny, brilliant and he is a professional. I grew up on Bernie Taupin lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader. There are very obvious NOT ME lyrics, it feels REALLY WEIRD to sing them. I was nominated for a Grammy for my song ‘Malibu’ and Bernie Taupin and Van Dyke Parks had a discussion about the composition of Malibu in the LA TIMES. It was the only piece of press I would save. They seriously discussed the very complicated composition of that song, they got the way I write and it was really neat.”

19) There's plenty of drugs mentioned on this album. Could you talk about that

“Do you want me to censure myself - I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”


THE FINAL FEATURE

The Nature of LOVE: Courtney Love Speaks Out!

By Lawrence Ferber

“SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Garden [because] I sold it out!” proclaims singer/songwriter/actress Courtney Love. Indeed. Never one to mince words or compromise her thoughts – and, often famously, actions – Love’s debut solo album, America’s Sweetheart (Virgin), betrays the same fearlessness, honesty, brashness, outrageousness and passion we’ve come to expect from her. It ain’t always pretty, but that’s the nature of Love.
“I want to be on the Top 40, but there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons - I am not living a lie,” Love continues, adding that she expects her collaborators to be equally outright, much like pro-gay late husband Kurt Cobain. “There’s a young artist I know, at the very least she is bisexual, and she wanted to do a duet with me. I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT,’ at least as a bisexual. And she wouldn't. I do not know why. There’s a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I’ve tried to come out but nobody believes I’m a lesbian – it’s like I have ‘COCK’ written on my forehead.”
The last we heard from Love – musically, that is – was on Hole’s Grammy Award-nominated, platinum-certified 1998 album, Celebrity Skin. Formed in 1989, the alt-rock outfit (which included lesbian drummer Patty Schemel) also made waves with 1991 debut Pretty on the Inside and 1994’s Live Through This. America’s Sweetheart marks Love’s first departure from the band… and its group dynamic.
“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway,” she notes. “I’m a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter-ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby. She wrote ‘Life Despite God,’ AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda Perry.”
Out lesbian Perry, who recently worked on Pink’s Try This, was one of a handful of Love’s collaborators on America’s Sweetheart, including studio powerhouses Josh Abraham (Staind), James Barber (Ryan Adams), Matt Serletic (Grammy Winner/Virgin Records chairman), and songwriter Bernie Taupin.
“I NEVER let anyone into my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it,” attests Love. “There’s the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers?’ She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, ‘Uncool.’ I grew up on Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader [working with him].”
The process of creating America’s Sweetheart started off slowly, says Love, who hadn’t written any songs for years. “I sat at home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’” she admits. “Then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and I just kept writing.” On the album’s first single, “Mono,” a fiery and fierce Love blasts assured shouts of “I’m so much better than him!” over 80’s-style power rock guitar grinding. “Hello” is also pretty rocking, with sassy boasts like “I’m about to tell you about the difference you will never make.” “Zeplin Song” humorously razzes someone’s overplaying a tune by the legendary rock band (“Why does the song remain the same?” she queries).
Love also comes clean on the album, so to speak, about her chemical addictions. In October of 2003, following an arrest for attempting to break into an ex-boyfriend’s home and an overdose daughter Frances Bean Cobain witnessed, Bean was removed from Love’s custody by authorities (the 11-year-old currently resides with Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor). Love then checked into rehab but her erratic behavior – most recently a three-hour nude jaunt around a rehab center – continues.
Drugs take the fore on songs like “All The Drugs” and “Sunset Strip,” one of the most powerful tunes both lyrically and musically. “Rock star, pop star, everybody dies… I got pills ‘cause I am the worst and best dressed… I got pills for my coochie because baby I’m sore… take all these stupid pills away” she sings. Asked to elaborate upon these lyrics, Love proffers “Do you want me to censure myself? I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”
“The Plague,” meanwhile, is anything but lame: it’s boiling with emotional turmoil (“you shoulda loved me baby!”). Just don’t tell Love it’s got dashes of Janis Joplin as well. “That is OUTRAGEOUS,” she gags at the comparison. “‘The Plague,’ aka ‘Life Despite God,’ is a BLUES song! Get new ears - put your new ears on!! It was three hours long. In that song Linda and I are white women stuck in a whorehouse, we drank tequila and that song was born.”
Pink has credited Perry with an ability to drag one’s demons out. However, Love insists that wasn’t the case in these here parts. “Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship,” Love proffers. “I’m not knocking Linda’s ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons, and she helped temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”
Speaking of Johns, Love originally wrote “Uncool” with Elton John’s oft-collaborator Bernie Taupin. Love credits Elton John with having “saved my ass” on occasion. “Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show,” Love recalls, referring to her arrest for causing a disturbance on an airplane prior to a scheduled appearance at a star-studded benefit gig for London’s Old Vic theater. “Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way, she is in.’” Love made media headlines again that night by showing up in a Donald Duck costume (Elton did much the same in the 70’s), although “John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing, and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume.”
Of course, the world’s vision of Love has included an active artists’ rights activist and the glamorous Hollywood actress who was nominated for a 1996 Golden Globe for her turn in Milos Forman’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt. “I go between t-shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself,” Love says of her dichotomous rocker/glamazon personas. “The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically, ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me, more than masculine stuff. I am so big I love feeling petite.”
Love made her big screen bow in 1986’s Sid and Nancy, and appeared in other biopics like 1996’s Basquiat and 1999’s Man on the Moon. In 2001, she played a New Jersey housewife who has a lesbian affair with Lili Taylor in a feature called Julie Johnson. The film’s US distributor, The Shooting Gallery, went bankrupt prior to release, so it remains shelved. According to Taylor, Love would play Mazzy Star while shooting their love scenes.
As for what sort of lady would be Love’s dream lesbian lover offscreen, she muses “somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant! She would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”
Interestingly, Love explores all flavors of sexuality in “Princess Ai,” a series of manga (Japanese comic book) she developed with DJ Milky and Japanese manga artist Ai Yazawa (who was responsible for the queer-inclusive “Paradise Kiss” series). Publisher Tokyopop describes Love’s manga alter-ego as “a smart and talented, yet controversial young woman who utilizes the public stage not only for self-expression but also to hide from her assailants. She is the princess of a mysterious, unknown land, who has escaped to our world and is now taking refuge in the bustling nightclubs of Kabushiki-cho.”
Speaking of nightclubs, Love is planning to put together an all-girl band to tour for America’s Sweetheart. Does this additional solo step mean her Hole is, er, closed up for good? Or just relaxing after a lot of action?
“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I’m just doing my Kegel exercises,” Love laughs. “There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”

America’s Sweetheart was released February 10th. For more info, go to www.courtneylove.com.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The 80s Happened There - Hubert Kah


Germany enters the fray with "Military Drums" by Hubert Kah. Love the music. Loathe the video. How lame is the Annie Lennox reject? And the expressionist set? Yeah, we know it's Germany but does everything have to be expressionist? Or maybe it's just the New Wave. I'm being judgmental, huh?

L

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mark Antony (& The Johnsons)


Bjork is playing New York's Madison Square Garden this coming Monday, so to mark the occasion I'm posting this interview with one of her new album's guests, Antony. I LOVE Antony, and although I haven't seen him for a while now - last time was at a little birthday shindig for LD Beghtol in the East Village that Stephin Merritt was DJing, as I recall - I'm really loving his frequent guest appearances on other artists' albums.

That's enough of that - now to the interview. I may post the other interviews as well down the line...

L

Swing Out, Sister

By Lawrence Ferber

“I think I present a fairly vulnerable depiction of what I would consider my true state of gender,” says Antony, openly queer frontsman of stunning chamber pop troupe Antony and The Johnsons. “Which is quite ambiguous.” Antony’s second full-length LP, I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian), negotiates and explores the many shades of gender and celebrates the liberation of those who feel they are something “other.” On “For Today I Am a Boy,” he sings “One day I’ll grow up and be a beautiful woman/ one day I’ll grow up and be a beautiful girl/ But for today I am a child/ for today I am a boy.” And on the beauteous, “Bird Gehrl,” the singer yearns for wings because “the bird gehrls can fly.”
“For me, the title I Am A Bird Now suggests something between an achievement, a longing for and a freedom from a kind of imprisonment,” Antony adds. “It speaks also about the picture on the cover, of Candy Darling in the hospital right before she dies. But the title draws from many sources. Personal, sort of like a bouquet of ideas.”
Dishing up more of his trademark, immensely moving piano and strings-blessed torch songs, this time Antony adds splashes of influences and genres like Otis Redding soul, jazz, and in the case of “I Hope There’s Someone,” a profoundly haunting, Philip Glass-esque piano/choral swell. Some impressive guests add to the bouquet: Rufus Wainwright contributes lead vocals on “What Can I Do?” “Rufus did such a job of it, brought so much elegance and form to it,” Antony reports. “Rufus and I are friends and I did some vocals on Want Two’s ‘Old Whore’s Diet,’ We’re both guesting on each other’s records, which is nice. One time we did a show together and sang that song "Baby Mine" from "Dumbo." It was like I died and went to heaven. He’s got such a lovely sense of harmony.”
Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed, who brought Antony along on his 2003 international tour, appears on “Fistful of Love.” And sister in spirit Boy George duets on “You Are My Sister.” “George was the first reflection of myself I saw in the world,” Antony admits. “When I was 12 years old and I saw an image of him it was the first time I had seen or heard of a person who reflected my own sense of myself and really, I think, helped determine I would become a singer.”

I first heard of Antony in 2000, when he performed a song called "Cripple and the Starfish" at NYC's Wigstock festival. His singing entailed a shuddering, beautiful warble, unlike anything I'd heard (although when pressed, Tiny Tim meets Brian Ferry was my pithy summation). Up there on stage he looked so frail, so delicate, one thin layer of skin from being completely exposed to the world and its harsh elements. Was this a persona, or a real person? Some time later I met Antony at a West Village café. He struck me as a completely genuine person and, when I asked whether the Antony I saw onstage was an alter-ego or the real 24/7 deal, he plainly told me: "I don't really think of it as a persona - I'm just a performer."
Hailing from the South of England (Chichester), Antony spent much of a colorful, sometimes difficult childhood moving from place to place (including Amsterdam, Minnesota, and California). Son of an engineer and photographer, he started performing early: a lip-sync to Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ when he was seven years old. At 12 he told his mother he was gay. “Let’s just say I was never in the closet,” he notes. “I was the kind of child where it was never possible for me to be in the closet. The issue for me as a child was being a sissy, of having feminine and creative interests.”
As a young teenager, Antony found his first role models - glammy queer performers like Boy George, Klaus Nomi and Marc Almond (“Marc really verbalized something which I would later really internalize, which is this idea of ‘don’t put anything into it unless you feel it.”). But it was thanks to a performance by Nomi’s former partner, Joey Arias, in the film Mondo New York, that Antony experienced a life-changing epiphany (or, as he characterizes it, “the last straw”).
“Arias lip-synched ‘Hard Day’s Night’ as Billie Holiday and I was so overwhelmed I knew that was the city I had to live in,” he recalls. So Antony picked up and settled down in NYC. He actually performed with Arias years later, at a Klaus Nomi tribute.
Between 1990 and 1997, Antony took part in “experimental afterhours” theater with a troupe called Black Lips. They appeared in Manhattan East Village nightclubs, staging plays like “The Birth of Anne Frank and the Ascension of March P. Johnson,” and what he terms “transvestite debacles,” the majority of which featured a show-stopping song. Many of those songs ended up on Antony and The Johnson’s first eponymous album and a single, “I Fell In Love With a Dead Boy,” both released on an experimental UK label run by artist David Tibet. Backed by a small orchestra, decked out in gender-bending outfits and a light coating of makeup, Antony’s sublime concert performances helped build an impressive audience and fans like Laurie Anderson, Steve Buscemi, and Lou Reed. Buscemi enlisted Antony to appear and sing in his 2000 film, Animal Factory.
Reed, who guested at one of Antony’s live performances, invited Antony to return the favor and perform with him on his international 2003 tour. “Not enough can be said about the singer Reed has brought on this tour who simply goes by Antony,” reads a Billboard review. Antony’s show stopping rendition of “Candy Says,” a gorgeously melancholy ode to Candy Darling, can be found on Reed’s live Animal CD. The pair continue to perform together occasionally.

Antony admits that I Am a Bird Now heralds a new direction for him musically – its songs were written as songs unto themselves, for an album, rather than to be incorporated into a scripted or semi-scripted theatrical production. “I’m sort of segueing into a different type of a platform,” he says. “As opposed to being a theater tableau that people listen to as a piece, I wanted it to be something that invites the listener close. Also in terms of the delivery of the songs I would say it’s very personal. An internal landscape. The first album is like a world-view in a way, my perception of the world around me. This is more of an internal view.”
The CD’s booklet helps complement the intimate nature and themes. Inside is a striking, stylized Josef Astor photo of a woman named Page, to whose memory the album is dedicated. Antony describes Page as the Candy Darling of his generation, a muse for many in the East Village scene of the 1990s. “She was a performance artist, very avant-garde transsexual,” he notes. “Punk isn’t really the right word. More like a surrealist. Very forward-thinking in a lot of ways, very wild. She was in a lot of my shows over the years at Pyramid and PS 122. I’d usually have her sing one of my songs. She had this really beguiling, bizarre vocal delivery. Always enchanted the audience. And she was very hardcore. She had that Leigh Bowery/ Divine type edge in terms of how far she’d be willing to take things. She was also a good-hearted person underneath all of her outrageousness. She died 2 years ago of a drug overdose, so the album is dedicated to her.”
Something of a collector of “found” items, Antony includes a few choice items in the booklet including a “spooked out” page from a calendar he found in an abandoned prison cell while shooting Animal Factory, and a cryptic letter taken from a medical journal on sex reassignment and hermaphrodism. Written in a child’s scrawl, the letter reads: “Father, I got to b a boy, Mother, I got 2 b a boy.”
“Those letters are from the 60s, I think - it was a boy born with androgynous genitals, features, or a kid, and they were requesting sex reassignment in a certain direction,” Antony explains. “Until recently and even to this day, kids born hermaphroditic were sexually reassigned as infants. Sometimes that would backfire because they would assign the wrong gender. To assign any gender to a hermaphroditic child limits their options. Now there’s a movement toward embracing oneself as an intersexed person as opposed to trying to segue into one box or the other. A more modern way of thinking about that.”
Boy George is one person Antony always saw as a “sister,” so he invited the pop music legend to duet on “You Are My Sister.” “I love his delivery so much,” Antony admits. “It’s so passionate, like a mixture between Jimmy Scott and Marianne Faithful. More world-weary, something very experienced. I love that song because it operates on so many levels. A sister can be so many things. It can be between queens or a person in the family. Someone you want to protect or wish well for. I love that song because it seems to speak to all those things simultaneously. George is singing so beautifully on it I think it’s a revelation to hear him.”
Besides touring his new album this winter/spring, Antony appears in the upcoming French film “Wild Side,” directed by Sebastien Lifshitz. In his scene, Antony sings to a room full of real Parisian, transsexual prostitutes. “The opportunity to sing for all those girls I couldn’t really turn down,” he says. “I’m not an actor so if there’s something real happening in the room I can connect with it. Animal Factory was a similar situation. I was performing for a bunch of real people, in that case it was prisoners. Both times it was like a very heightened live performance but captured on film.”
For someone who creates such passionate music, how does Antony’s love life compare? He bristles when the topic comes up and expediently begs it away. However, he does admit that some fans are quite anxious to share their love – sometimes expressed in unusual forms - with him. “I guess there’s a couple,” he says. “Some are sexy. Some are a little bit… (pause) wild. I did have someone send me some, what she termed ‘cat pizza’ I was terrified at first it was going to find pizza made out of pets. It ended up just being catnip pizza, which my cat actually thoroughly enjoyed.”

See www.antonyandthejohnsons.com for more information.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Madonna Interview


When I'm traveling, and someone asks me about which celebrities I have interviewed, Madonna is one of the first names I mention. That's because EVERYBODY know who Madonna is. And they generally go "really?" or "no way" or "holy goddamned wow-wow-wow!"

So why not slap this unedited version of the Madonna piece I wrote - following the roundtable interview I partook of while she promoted The Next Best Thing. It wasn't too crowded, maybe a dozen of us at the table, and I got in several questions... She seemed forthcoming. And she really does have an aura, a presence. You felt her coming before she entered the room. It was amazing.

Bummer the movie sucked so darned hard. And she was doing that accent!

L


Madonna’s Next Thing

Madonna can vogue. She can also Shanti, geisha, pray, writhe, get unconscious, kiss and tell, keep it together… you know the drill, the looks, the fads often imitated by millions. But in The Next Best Thing, directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), she takes on her most laudable, politically-minded, mature, and socially conscious project yet. The story of a gay man and straight woman who have a baby and face parting when one gets involved with another man, Madonna both acts and spits out two new tunes, including the surprisingly tasty, danceable (!!), William Orbit-produced remake of Don Maclean’s “American Pie.” Whether the kids don what she wears in the film or try out her new, inexplicable “international” accent in casual conversation, however, isn’t the reason she did it, though… or anything else. “What goes through my mind is much more selfish,” she explained. “I always approach every project I do from at first, ‘what am I going to get out of it, learn from it, will it challenge me, is it going to take me to another place, am I going to grow from it?’ It always starts there. I don’t think you can begin being creative by thinking how it’s going to affect other people because that waters it down. Ultimately, the impulse has to come from a pure place.”
In The Next Best Thing, Madonna plays lovelorn Abbie, a yoga-instructing professional who can’t find a decent man. As it happens, she HAS found one – tall, dark, and handsome Robert (Rupert Everett) – but he’s a big ol’ fag. So the two are content to be best friends until, one night, a drunk frolic lands Abbie with a lump in her womb. What’s a fag and his knocked-up hag to do? Well, they decide to raise the wee one, Sam (Malcolm Stumpf), together, co-habitating, until one day the right man does arrive (Benjamin Bratt) and inevitably must break the family up. Unfortunately, that happens sooner than later when Abbie, threatened by Robert’s unwillingness to negotiate on custody issues, slinks away with their kid in tow, and an ugly legal battle transpires. Enter a few folks from the periphery – like Abbie’s loathsome ex-boyfriend Kevin (Michael Vartan) and Robert’s PWA buddy David (all-grown-up “Doogie Howser” Neil Patrick Harris) – and you’ve a roller coaster of drama, gay parental issues, and Mo’.
Obviously, The Next Best Thing is a project close to the heart of openly gay Everett, a driving force behind its production and promotion. For one thing, he nudged Madonna to cover “American Pie” (“There was a minute there where I thought it was too corny for words,” Madonna quips of her remake which Everett contributes backing vocals to, “but everybody else seemed to like it – I kind of went with the flow.”), pushed its issue of gay parenting, reshaped its story, and even arranged a commendable – and possibly one of the first – gay press junket in South Beach, Miami.
At that junket, held at the Uberdeco, super lush Delano Hotel, Everett told of The Next Best Thing’s jaw-droppingly ludicrous sounding initial incarnation, when it was the tale of a “flubbery” gay man obsessed with food, his child-hungry best female friend, and their mutual effort to sprout a wee one. In downright Vaudevillian attempts to get the gal pregnant (more crudely, the gay guy excited enough to slip it in and spill some seeds), the slapstick pair would dollop whipped cream and other confections on her body for him to slurp up and smoosh about in. Worse, the original story’s Abbie and Robert WERE set on spawning a child, so when it came time for Abbie to flee the nest for greener hetero pastures with their kid, she came across as a downright calculated villain, unlike the merely confused and desperate Abbie Madonna plays. So let’s give a hand to uncle Rupert!
“He’s always bossing me around,” smiled Madonna, looking absolutely gorgeous at her all-press New York junket. “He’s like a big bully. He is tall, he is stronger than me, he can wrestle me down to the ground.”
But would she “fall” for him like Abbie falls for Robert?
“Eventually, yeah. I adore him. I love him. I’m sure if he was straight things would be different.”
Speaking of different, in many ways, Abbie is a more different, dangerous and difficult role than Evita or even that killer slag Madonna played in that forgettable Willem Dafoe flick from however many years ago. After all, Abbie’s NOT the most likeable character (at least to gay men rooting for Everett), and at the same time must come across as vulnerable, human, and wounded in her history with love and men. “Well, I do have some things in common with Abbie,” Madonna admitted. “I’ve made some mistakes definitely. I think I’ve passed some pretty incredible people by because I’m really selfish. Whatever. Live and learn, right? I’m still kicking myself.”
But what about commitment and marriage NOW?
“Possibly,” she volunteered with a pause. “Next question!”
Back to her character, regardless of her snatching Sam away and forcing Robert to pursue legal action, both Everett and Madonna see Abbie as sympathetic. Said the latter, “I think she’s a really nice person and did the very best thing she could do. I think she made mistakes, made some silly choices in the end, things that perhaps I wouldn’t have done, but in the end I have a lot of compassion for her and think she behaved in a very humane way. But the way she chose to have the baby and raise the baby, I probably wouldn’t have done those things – in fact I’m sure I wouldn’t have.”
And as for Everett, he sees his Robert as sympathetic, although he admitted not being ready to wear a parent’s shoes himself just yet.
“Well, I think a lot of gay men truly are interested in raising families and being parents,” Madonna opined on the subject of gay parenting. “I think people take that really seriously, so I hope it changes that misconception. I think that Rupert is a fantastic gay role model because he doesn’t really fit into middle Amercia’s pre-conceived notion… that kind of manly queeny gay personality. I think he kind of defies all of that – he’s actually quite butch and very hetero-seeming!”
By the same token, The Next Best Thing defies any predictable narrative path, weaving comic and cute adventures with Kramer Versus Kramer courtroom drama. Admittedly, this results in tonal and storytelling inconsistencies, but for Madonna this wasn’t a major point of concern. “Only that it flowed effortlessly and that the audience took the ride with you,” she explained. “I do think it is very reflective of life. It started out kind of happy… I wouldn’t say carefree but I don’t think Rupert’s or my character really thought things out further down the line. I think we were very much in the moment and I think what happened to them in the movie happens to a lot of people in real life – certainly with couples who fall in love, marry, and have children never thinking things may not work out down the line and what happens as a result of that?”
Of course, who Madonna is today has happened as a result of decisions made by her parents, most importantly, religion. After all, where would she be without the burning crosses of “Like a Prayer”? Or any other aspects of her art which an Italian Catholic upbringing wrought? Now that she’s a mother herself, one might ask how will she raise Lourdes in the spiritual sense? “That is a conundrum,” Madonna admitted. “I don’t know. I’m very conflicted about that. I talk about God with my daughter and we say prayers every night before she goes to bed, and she was baptized a Catholic. But I’m not really sure how I feel about the concept of organized religion. So I don’t know exactly how I’m going to introduce that into her life.”
Showbiz is another issue Madonna seems conflicted about regarding Lourdes, and stresses it will be Lourdes’ call when she’s old enough to decide on a career. “The climate of the entertainment business changes from decade to decade,” she explained, “so who knows what it’s gonna be like when she gets older. But I do think you have to be pretty thick skinned to survive in the business and understand it is about the big picture and not the small one…. And be prepared for the rejection and do it for the right reasons.”
As for her own future, Madonna expressed plans to pursue writing (“I don’t know what shape that would take… whether it would be a screenplay, but I think I’d like to do that more.”) and further film projects (“I’m really picky about stuff so nothing really specific yet.”), so long as nothing interferes with Lourdes seeing her father (Madonna has turned down world tours so Lourdes and daddy can be close). And while Madonna confesses “mixed feelings” for The Next Best Thing, she feels she’s come a long way since those days of Shanghai Surprise. “I feel a lot more comfortable with myself as an actress now, that’s for sure,” she admitted, “but I don’t really think about the audience. I think ‘do I love this part?,’ and ‘I’m gonna do the best job I can possibly do because that’s the only insurance I’m gonna have when it comes to an audience reaction.’”
That’s our lady with an attitude!