August 30, 2013

A Broadway Viral Video "For Good"

In a week filled with Miley Cyrus' bumping-n-grinding which went super-viral after the VMAs, this amazing video from a Kristen Chenoweth concert at the Hollywood Bowl feels like something of a cultural antidote. With 2.6 million views, it just may be the remedy for too much Miley.

Chenoweth asked a random audience member to come up on stage and join her to sing "For Good," the now classic number from the role she originated in WICKED.  Sarah Horn, an unassuming teacher from Riverside California, raised her hand when Chenoweth asked who knew all the words to the song. Well, not only did Horn know the words, she is actually a vocal teacher who was somewhat obsessed with the show and that song and (surprise!) even knew the harmonies.

The quality of the video image is a little rough but the sound comes through loud and clear. Horn has a lovely voice and not only stuns the crowd, but also Chenoweth too. There were cynical Internet allegations that Horn was a plant but Horn actually thought she wouldn't get chosen because there was a plant!  Horn reveals this detail in a great Q/A with the Hollywood Reporter about her once-in-a-lifetime experience. All in all, it's really a great counterpoint to the Miley-madness which has filled the August news vacuum this week. 


August 26, 2013

Carol Channing And Justin Vivian Bond Put On A Show In Cherry Grove

I was out on Fire Island this weekend and was lucky enough to attend this one-night only show at the Ice Palace--Carol Channing and Justin Vivian Bond. I wrote about it for NEXT magazine's blog, which you can read here. It was really a special night to get to see these two performers talking, gossiping and even singing. I had previously seen Carol a couple years ago at a Broadway benefit at the New Amsterdam Theatre where she came out kicking with a line of chorus boys. At 92, she is not a little more frail but still sharp, funny and somewhat wicked too.

She is really quite the storyteller as well--one of my favorites was a touching tale she told about the Kennedy's, post-assasination. She'd been to the White House for a couple dinners and invited Jacqueline Kennedy to bring John and Caroline to see HELLO DOLLY on Broadway. Before the show, they met the star backstage and Caroline fancied one of her prop purses and Carol gave it to her--much to the chagrin of stagehands who said they could not come up with a new purse before curtain. Justin started the night with songs about love and the evening was a true lovefest; the audiences love for this iconic performer and her love of her especially devoted/obsessed LGBT fans.

August 22, 2013

In Other News, Wentworth Miller Comes Out As A 41-Year-Old

A big story online yesterday was former PRISON BREAK star Wentworth Miller, long rumored to be gay and caught by papaprazzi with partners, officially came out as a gay man in a letter to a Russian film festival. He not only turned down their invitation to attend the festival but also, in strong language, condemned Russia's current anti-gay policies.  If you're going to have a coming out press blitz, I thought this was an effective way to use that opportunity to make an essential point about the injustices currently happening in Russia towards the LGBT community. 

However, there was one bit of his press release which struck me as even more shocking which is that he listed his age as 41. I mean, wow...who knew? This surprising fact did not pass the notice of the saavy editors at Buzzfeed either, who put together a lovely homage to this handsome gay man in his 40s who was not only proud of his orientation but also his age too. Wentworth is giving us 40-somethings some real gay juice, as the kids say. More power to him!

August 21, 2013

In 1990, Spielberg-Lucas-Scorsese Talked About The Future Of The Movies

The Tribeca Film Festival email alerted me to a fascinating video on YouTube; a one-hour special interview, done by Siskel and Ebert, of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese back in 1990 about the future of film. 

The thoughtful, intercut discussion with all three directors touches on many topics, including the role of technology in film (Lucas has a few things to say) and also the preservation of the movies, which is a cause these three have brought to prominence since then. Spielberg notably talks about looking into the original elements for JAWS and finding them in a shambles. Cut to last year, when a definitive Blu-Ray restoration of JAWS was released. Spielberg also promises that there will never ever be an ET sequel...and he's actually kept that promise. Lucas, on the other hand, promises three new STAR WARS films and most of us wish he didn't keep that promise. :) 

Late in the show, they all talk about the future of HDTV which was just making it's first impression with some experimental sets. There is even a widely expressed concern that people will stop going to the movies with the home movie experience being the same as at home. But Lucas aptly predicts that the movie theatres will be home to more spectacles and personal films will gravitate towards the home screen.

August 19, 2013

NetPix: MUD With Matthew McConaughey

I recently got a chance to see one of the sleeper indie hits of the summer, MUD. It stars Matthew McConaughey but really the stars of the film are two young boys, 14 year olds in the deep south on the verge of manhood played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. Their performances are subtle and powerful by the end. And overall the movie is a wonderful piece of filmmaking telling a story that has many surprises along the way, especially towards the end. I didn't know much going into the film which I particularly like...I don't think I had even seen a trailer. I had just read online and heard from friends that it was a film worth seeing.

In addition to McConaughey, who gives a great performance as the eponymous and mysterious character named "Mud", there are a couple other well-known actors in surprising roles in the film. This was also great in that I had no idea they were going to be in the film and was impressed how they really immersed themselves in these particularly unglamorous roles in a rough-and-tumble milieu. Though I didn't see this one on NetFlix (which has lately not become a home for new films, unfortunately), you can catch it on iTunes or Amazon. It's a great corrective to the bloated and oversized films (many of which are bombing) of this summer.

August 15, 2013

The Price Of Applause....Literally

There is a disturbing yet somewhat fascinating article in today's TIMES about Russia. No, not all the anti-gay violence and laws being passed. But it's about a sort of semi-secretive cabal that is paid to generate applause at certain moments in at the Bolshoi Ballet. Yes, you read that all correctly.

The story, from yesterday's Arts section, is about a practice that is apparently over a hundred years old where a group of 30 or so well-placed "claqueurs" can start a wave of applause when needed, to boost an actors energy (and give them a chance to catch their breath) or to just boost their ego. All for a price too. It's run by a mysterious and somewhat sinister sounding fellow named Roman Abramov, who officially the Bolshoi Ballet itself had a no comment about.

The practice was apparently common in many theaters until the late 1800s. I'm actually surprised that some savvy Broadway producer hasn't taken up the practice himself but, at $150 a pop, a group of 30 professional audience members would take a chunk out of the box office. Then again, Bway shows are famous for filling the seats with friendly audience members and friends of the production for nights when the critics show up. But something this organized and also somewhat sinister does not seem to be happening here. At least yet...

August 8, 2013

There's A New Feature Film This Fall All About CBGB

In 2006, the infamous rock club on the Bowery CBGB closed after a 30 year plus run, an eternity for a New York nightspot.  The space is famous not only for it's disgusting bathroom (now sorta on view at The Met) but also for the bands it broke; Blondie, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, and Patti Smith, who closed it down with a final set on the evening the music died.

This fall, there's a new feature film about CBGB and it's equally infamous owner Hilly Kristal. The trailer debuted online yesterday at the Hollywood Reporter's website and it features Hilly (played deliciously by Alan Rickman) and tons of celebrity band impersonators. The Rickman stuff looks great, the bands...could be iffy. The nutty Hilly and the "decor" of the joint were always the real interest of that place. I went to CBGB a few times in the '90s and I have to say the hype was a little much to live up to. As the tag line for the movie says "50,000 bands and 1 disgusting bathroom" and that kinda sums it up. So there were maybe 20 legendary bands that came out of the joint, another 200 or so really good bands if you're generous and maybe 300 bands that didn't suck. So that leaves the other 49,480 bands to deal with. Which meant that if you were invited to see someone's band at CBGB, do the math.

Anyway, it looks like they've rebuilt the Bowery on a backlot for this movie as that current stretch of NYC street is unrecognizable from it's grungy "heyday". In fact, the CBGB is now a John Varvotos store. Times they have a changed....

August 6, 2013

YouTube Video Of Two Guys Kissing Gets Age-Restricted

A friend of mine who is a budding performance and video artist Idan Bitton recently posted a sweet video on YouTube called "First Kiss" in which he kisses another man....for a Warholian hour an a half. :) But that's it. They are just kissing. No nudity. No suggestion of nudity or anything else really. Sure, they are two obviously sexy guys but well, that's sorta the point too.

Anyway, the lack of truly offensive content in his video did not stop Google from flagging it a few days ago and now it is age-restricted on YouTube, only for those 18 and older. If you search for "kissing videos" on YouTube, you will find lots of much racier content of heterosexual couples kissing. Thye are not only more suggestive of actual sex but there is a whole series of instructional videos on "dirty kissing" for guys and girls. That series is not only not age restricted but it has millions of hits too. 

In fact, you will find heterosexual couples up to all sorts of non-age restricted nonsense all over YouTube (and the Internet at large for that matter). However, if it's two men kissing then that is too much for the youngsters to handle? I don't buy it. Despite this ridiculous restriction, Idan's video has racked up 50,000-plus hits in a little over a week and generated a very lively and overwhelmingly positive discussion in the comments section. The users of YouTube are apparently much more enlightened and un-shockable than the people flagging the videos. As the most recent comment today read, "what community standards is Google upholding? That of the Russian Parliament?" Well played, sir.

August 2, 2013

Summer Reading And Viewing For Your iPhone/iPad...Courtesy of Me

As the dog days of August begin, I know that a lot of you will be at the beach or up in the country--for some of you I will be staying at your beach/country houses! :)  So I thought it would be a good time to suggest some fun summer reading and viewing, specifically of my very own summery projects.

First off, a few years back I wrote my second novel TALE OF TWO SUMMERS (Simon and Schuster) and it's still going strong, as perennial summer love stories seem to have staying power!  Now it's even available to download for beach reading on your iPhone/iPad for  $11.99 in the iBook store or just $10 on Kindle. On top of that, you get two summer love stories for the price of one...what's not to like!

The other summer-themed projects are movies; first there is AUGUST, a sultry summer romance about a love triangle set during an LA heatwave, which is now available on iTunes as well as streaming now on Netflix and Hulu Plus. This is a film that I co-wrote/produced with Eldar Rappaport and stars Murray Bartlett, who is featured in the upcoming gay HBO show set in San Francisco. The other feature is THE WAY I SEE THINGS, which I executive produced, that was written and directed by Brian Pera and is about a summer road trip that goes awry with some unlikely/lovely detours in the South. It was just released on Amazon Prime (which is free if you try the service for a month).

So check one or all three of these out in your summer downtime, and I hope you have a lovely and relaxing August. And thank you for your continued support of all my creative works.

August 1, 2013

There Goes The Pizza Box, 1957-2013 RIP

So I leave the Village for less than two months and the place falls apart!  

One of my all-time favorite local spots and my personal best-slice-of-pizza joint Pizza Box closed up shop unceremoniously last Thursday. I saw this picture posted on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York and felt a Proustian-pang for yet another vestige of my NYC youth. It had been there 55 years and wondrously felt like it and the guys behind the counter were always friendly, especially to the locals like myself.

Though the pizza there was great and draft beer only 2$, what was truly special was the outdoor seating area which gave a glimpse into the priveleged backyards of the stately town homes on Macdougal and Sullivan which shared an impossibly lush garden space with suburban-sized trees more than 60 feet tall. This secret garden was one of the treasures of living in the neighborhood as you could retreat to the relative quiet of this leafy space and have a slice and a beer and maybe even a cigarette (if someone else had a pack!). 

In the six weeks since I moved from the Village to Astoria, this has been the second notable retail death in the neighborhood--the first being Joe's Dairy on Sullivan. What's next...Once Upon A Tart? It makes me sad to see things changing like this but it also reinforces part of why I left in the first place--the Village is just not the homey local place I used to know anymore.