Sunday, February 26, 2017

Who’s Hotter, Joe Tippett or Billy Magnussen?

Last night I saw The New Group's production of All the Fine Boys at The Pershing Square Signature Center, where Joe Tippett plays a 28-year-old nuclear technician whose relationship with Abigail Breslin’s 14-year-old middle school girl takes a dark turn. I immediately recognized the hunky Tippett from his previous role as the bashful boyfriend in Playwrights Horizon’s Indian Summer, in which he was frequently shirtless.
That got me thinking. Who’s hotter, Joe Tippett or Billy Magnussen?
Magnussen, of course, is most famous for his role as the sexy Spike  in Broadway’s Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike (where he was also frequently shirtless), as well as Second Stage’s Sex with Strangers.
They both have a certain “aw shucks” charm, in addition to their gym bodies.
What do you think?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Post Trump Stress Disorder

Since November 8th, I’ve been suffering from Post Trump Stress Disorder.
I’ve been having trouble falling asleep at night and getting out of bed in the morning.
This has come on top of the depression I’d already been experiencing for the last year and a half due to being unemployed/underemployed.
And the situation is even worse if you’re a stand-up comedian, like I am.
For the last year and a half I haven’t felt funny.
While I live for Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression (as well as Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway and Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer), it was hard to me to joke about Trump even during his campaign, because I was always aware of the dangerous possibility that he could actually become our president.
Now that he actually is our president, the situation is even worse.
Beyond that, I’m not sure if being a comedian is the even best use of my time and abilities anymore.
And, at my age, time is of the essence.
How can I make jokes when keeping track of all the shit Trump is doing on a daily basis is a full time job in itself?
I thought I would feel better after I took part in the Women’s March in New York City. But I felt like, at best, we were preaching to the converted and, at worst, we were marching in a canyon of deserted office buildings.
I took some consolation from the protesters who showed up at airports all over the country, seemingly out of nowhere, after Trump’s Muslim ban.
And I’m heartened by Michael Flynn’s resignation and the rejection of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor.
But, as I said, there’s so much shit happening on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep up.
And I feel like the clock is ticking.
If I really want to get depressed, I think about how different a Clinton presidency would have been and the progress we’d already be making.
I don’t even dare to think about what a Sanders presidency would have been like. That would push me over the edge. And I know he’d have to deal with a Republican majority in Congress—but still. At least we wouldn’t have this disastrous cabinet and Supreme Court pick, on top of all of Trump’s other executive orders/policy blunders.
That’s what’s also so frustrating. The thought that we were uniquely positioned for someone like Sanders to win the presidency and we may never have that chance again. The idea that there was clearly a populist uprising happening (you could see it in the size of Sanders’s rallies—if the media bothered to cover them) and that someone as singularly unqualified as Trump was able to take advantage of this, while someone as singularly experienced as Clinton was tragically blind to the evidence all around her.
I had been prepared to spend the next four years holding Clinton’s feet to the fire, making sure she delivered on the progressive promises she made, only after Sanders succeeded in pushing her to the left.
Instead, we have Trump, whose first month in office (can it possibly be only one month? It feels like an eternity!) has been worse than I ever could have imagined.
And that’s why I have trouble falling asleep at night and getting out of bed in the morning.
It’s the sinking feeling that this is what the next four years are going to be like.
If not worse.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fag Hags and Disco Bunnies: A Meditation

I just came from seeing David’s Friend, Nora Burns’s autobiographical tribute to her best friend at La Mama, and I’m absolutely devastated.
Why did this show have such an effect on me?
First of all, it’s about death (David’s, from AIDS). It’s also about the larger death of New York City, a place where people came to find themselves in a world of sex, drugs and disco.
Watching the show was a very emotional experience for me because, in a way, this was my story.
Like Burns, I was a bit of a club kid in the early ’80s.
I, too, moved to New York City to attend college. In fact, the main reason I chose to attend NYU was because it was in New York City and it provided me with a means for moving there. And, like Burns, I eventually found that going to college was interfering with my nightlife (or, perhaps I should say, going to college was what allowed me to have a nightlife, since I didn’t have to get up early for work and my expenses were covered by student loans).
In fact, I suspect that pretty much anyone who lived in New York during this heady period will find much to appreciate in this show.
Burns has had a long career as a member of various comedy groups such as Unitard and the Nellie Olesons, and her writing and performing chops show. But this show takes her talent to a new level.
Because of this show, we get to know David, a stunningly beautiful man who died in the prime of his life.
So, while the show is very funny and entertaining, there’s also an undeniable poignancy to it.
Burns does a great job of recreating the era with the help of music, photographs, and her own journal entries.
The result is an important historical record of this unique time and place. (I’m reminded of the documentary Gay Sex in the ’70s or Brad Gooch’s book Smash Cut, about his lover, the film director Howard Brookner, who also died of AIDS.)
I was lucky that there was a cancellation for the last performance of this sold-out show, whose run was extended. But this is a show that deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.
It deserves to be seen by anyone who’s just moving to New York now and doesn’t know the exciting city it used to be before it became a boring city of rich people and chain stores.
And it deserves to be seen by a new generation of gay men who don’t know what it was like to lose an entire generation to AIDS.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year in Death

Of all the deaths that happened in 2016—and it seemed like there were more deaths in 2016 than in any year since the Plague—the one that hit me the hardest may have been the one that happened today, when I opened the New York Times and discovered that my local supermarket of the last 25 years—the Met Food on Mulberry Street in Nolita—was going out of business.
That was the final blow.
I know that may sound trivial, coming on top of all the other deaths and myriad other disasters we’ve witnessed this year, but this one, coming on the last day of the year and by complete surprise, was a bridge too far. I guess I should have known something was up this week when they stopped restocking their shelves, but still I soldiered on, my reputation as The Queen of Denial undiminished.
In the last few years, every amenity in my neighborhood has either completely gone out of business or had to relocate. The newsstand where I bought my beloved Times every day: relocated around the corner. The laundromat: relocated a few blocks south. Where once there were two delis on the same corner, there are now none. (Indeed, there are almost no delis left in my neighborhood, whatsoever.)
Last week, my gym of the last seven years, David Barton, announced to their members that they were closing all their New York locations in an email sent out at 1:30am. Surprise!
Our democracy has also, arguably, died. What else can you say when someone wins the popular vote and, because of some farkakte system called the Electoral College, fails to win the presidency?
And this is coming on top of a year that has seen a seemingly unending stream of celebrity deaths: David Bowie, Prince, and, in just the last week, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
So forgive me if I’m feeling a little less than festive this New Year’s Eve. Excuse me if my sentiments are more along the lines of John Oliver’s season-ending “Fuck You, 2016” episode.
I have a feeling that a lot of people will be joining me tonight when, as the clock strikes midnight, I’ll be saying this to 2016:
“Drop dead!”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Penny Arcade Is My Spirit Animal

I just came from seeing Penny Arcade’s new show, Longing Lasts Longer, at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. If you’re a fan of this blog, Jeremiah Moss’s blog “Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York” or, needless to say, Penny Arcade, you must see this show tomorrow before it closes!
Longing Lasts Longer is what you would get if you took the spirit of stand-up comedy, mixed it with theater and rock and roll and allowed it to delve more deeply into subjects like gentrification, political correctness and the spiritual vacuum in which we find ourselves in 2016.
For Penny Arcade, a cupcake is not just a cupcake. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual emptiness of today’s generation of twentysomethings, who are so afraid of reality, they’re trying to lull themselves into a sugar-based coma.
Penny takes common pet peeves like tourists walking four-people-across รก la Sex and the City and turns it into a statement about the death of New York City. People who move to the city now, she says, aren’t looking for adventure, to lose themselves in the city’s anonymity; they’re trying to recreate the suburbs.
Today’s political correctness on college campuses is creating a generation of defenseless, life-long adolescents who don’t know how to adapt to life’s inevitable disappointments.
Arcade paints a vivid picture of a generation that’s strapped into a tank-sized stroller at birth and, by the time they’re released at the age of 14, they have so much pent-up energy, they shoot up their schools!
Not only does she skewer the younger generation, but she creates space for those of us not born yesterday to take ownership of our lives.
She does this with the help of a pop music soundtrack ably deejayed by her co-author, Steve Zehentner. The lighting design by Justin Townsend creates an otherworldly atmosphere and the theater itself is stunningly beautiful.
Ms. Arcade moves in time to the music throughout her monologue and occasionally breaks the fourth wall to engage in small, improvised observations about the audience or her performance. (Before the show, she mingles with the audience to give them a sense of “the real Penny Arcade” so they don’t “hate her” after they’ve seen “the work.”)
All I can say is, if you’ve never seen her before, or even if you have, go see this show tomorrow before it closes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hate Wins

I’m beyond depressed.
I’m depressed, I’m angry, I’m afraid.
I haven’t felt this way since 9/11. And, if you think I’m being melodramatic, world markets are bearing me out. The Dow fell 600 points at the mere possibility that Trump might be the next president and world markets are following suit.
Maybe it’s hard for a straight, white, able-bodied man from middle America to understand how Donald Trump poses a threat to other people’s very existence. After all, he’s openly disrespected women, gays, Mexicans, Muslims, and disabled people. But, hey, tough luck for them, right?
Eight years of progress are about to be rolled back. Everything we progressives fought so hard for: gay marriage, reproductive rights, immigration reform, single payer/public option, gun control. Not just for our own benefit, but for the entire country’s benefit.
Kiss them goodbye.
And the sad thing is that Trump is reaping the zeitgeist that Bernie tapped into.
Believe me, I should know. Demographically speaking, I should be a Donald Trump supporter.
I’m a middle-aged white man without a college degree (I had to drop out—even though I had a full academic scholarship—because I used up the maximum I could borrow in student loans). I’ve been unemployed or underemployed for over a year and am in danger of losing my apartment. I only (barely) have health insurance because of Obamacare, and now that’s about to be taken away from me, too.
But if you’re poor or working class, Trump is not the man who’s going to save you. Trump has never had a thought for anyone except himself his entire life. We’re talking about a man who inherited $14 million, stiffed his employees, declared bankruptcy four times and used his charitable foundation to pay his debts!
And you think this is the man who’s going to help you?
I don’t understand how people can be so willfully stupid. I don’t understand how people can overlook his racism, homophobia, misogyny and religious intolerance just to “make a point.”
But don’t demonize Trump voters, I’m being told.
OK. There’s lots of blame to go around.
The media, who built Trump up for ratings, didn’t hold him accountable for his lies, treated him as a joke, and then so completely misread the electorate that his victory caught them by surprise.
The Democratic Party, which had Hillary as their anointed choice from the get-go and never gave Bernie a fighting chance, even though it’s now abundantly clear that he would have been the better candidate.
People who thought voting for a third-party candidate would be a good idea in such a critical and close election.
People who didn’t show up to vote at all.
I really don’t know where we, as a country, go from here.
I don’t know how people can have such hatred in their hearts.
I’m not a religious person, but right now I’m praying for our country’s future.
And my own.

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Ain’t No Disco

My life as a club kid was relatively short. It basically coincided with the year I attended NYU (1981), which allowed me to stay out late, and carried over into my first job at The Village Voice, which allowed me to go to New Wave nights at The Anvil on Tuesdays since I had Wednesdays off.
Similarly, the amount of time I lived in the East Village was relatively brief (the summer of 1980, plus 1981-1987). But, at one point, I was living next to the Fun Gallery (in Steve Buscemi’s old apartment), across the street from Jeff Weiss’s storefront theater, around the corner from PS122, and I was surrounded by dozens of art galleries and clubs.
Both these things were critically important in shaping the person I am today.
So when news of Tim Lawrence’s book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor: 1980-1983, popped up in my Facebook news feed, I couldn’t wait to read it.
The book does not disappoint.
I’m not alone in saying that Lawrence has written one of the most comprehensive and exhaustively researched books about this vitally important period in New York’s history.
The premise of the book is that this was a unique period for two reasons.
First, artists felt free to work in different mediums: everyone was an artist, musician, filmmaker and actor.
Second, and perhaps more important, is that this was a period when downtown met uptown, which is to say that downtown’s art/punk scene met uptown’s hip hop scene.
This resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of artistic creation.
And the place where a lot of that creation happened or was initiated was the city’s dance clubs.
I was more of a Mudd Club/Berlin person, but this book exposed me to a whole world I was barely aware of: clubs like The Loft, Better Days and Paradise Garage, that were more racially mixed, as opposed to the predominantly white punk/new wave clubs I went to or the almost exclusively white Saint.
One of the great things about this book is the inclusion of actual DJ discographies from this period. Now I like to think of myself as something of an ’80s music expert, but I usually only recognized about half the songs in these discographies (mainly the punk/new waves ones), and found myself scratching my head at some of the others.
I guess I led a sheltered existence!
But the reason why this book is so important is because it soon becomes abundantly clear that this period of New York’s history was a unique time that will never happen again (although Lawrence tries to paint a more hopeful picture).
In the early ’80s, it seemed like new clubs were opening up every week and that was just normal.
And, before the Internet destroyed everything, the only way to find about these places was by word of mouth, so they had time to grow and flourish before being ruined by yuppies. (I kid the yuppies!)
Ultimately, it was a combination of gentrification and AIDS, among other things, that drove most of these clubs out of business.
Nowadways, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve become very middle-class, and I can’t be bothered dragging my ass to Brooklyn to go dancing.
And that’s the other thing that was great about the early ’80s in New York: all the clubs were in downtown Manhattan and downtown Manhattan was still cheap enough that you could afford to live there and walk to them.
There’s a passage near the end of the book where Lawrence describes what’s become of some club locations (the Mudd Club is now a luxury apartment, the Loft is now a J. Crew, etc.). It’s hard not to feel nostalgic.
As Lawrence says, “The contrast between the version of the city that used to attract moneyless people who wanted to build a life and the one where the best those without capital can hope for is to commute to its center to carry out jobs that will never enable them to establish a home in its increasingly exclusive landscape is dramatic and continually charges the fascination with this bygone era.”
Only someone who was there will recognize names like Roxy promoter Ruza Blue, Man Parrish’s band Shox Lumania or performer Kestutis Nakas.
Everyone else will have to read this book.