Sunday, October 2, 2022

Bros Blows Me Away

Part of me didn’t want to like Bros.

I was never a fan of Billy Eichner’s man-on-the-street interview show, Billy on the Street. But, then again, I never watched enough of it to know whether or not he was being serious about his infatuation with celebrities or whether he was sending it up.

I now have to admit that I vastly underestimated his talent.

Bros nails so many aspects of gay life and culture, it’s almost like an anthropological study. From the inantity of Grindr conversations, to gay stereotypes about masculinity (from which the movie get its title) to the ubiquity of gay men who aren’t “emotionally available,” this movie has it all.

It’s also the funniest movie I’ve seen since Trainwreck (which was also produced by Judd Apatow).

Eichner simultaneously mocks heterosexual romantic comedies and gives us the gay rom-com we’ve always wanted to see. (OK, some of us wanted to see.)

OK, so it strains credulity a bit to see Eichner hooking up with the impossibly gorgeous Luke Macfarlane (who, for you straight people, is like the gay John Cena). But it’s no less unbelievable than Amy Schumer hooking up with the actual John Cena in Trainwreck. After all, isn’t that what rom-coms are all about?

He even gives us the running reunion/finale that’s a feature of every heterosexual rom-com from When Harry Met Sally to Manhattan.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Eichner can also sing (and has a great voice). I hate him!

In other words: go see Bros!

And, yes, I fully expect to be offered an acting and/or writing job after this review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

How to Have a Fire Island Vacation in Two Days

As a temp who doesn’t get paid time off, I have to plan very carefully when I take a vacation. Fortunately, since I’ve been going to Fire Island for over 20 years, I’ve figured out how to have a complete Fire Island vacation in two days.

Now I should mention that there are two distinct Fire Island experiences. If you’re going to Fire Island to party, you should go there on the weekend. It will also be more crowded and expensive on the weekend.

If you’re going to Fire Island to relax, you should go there during the week. Rates will be cheaper and it will be less crowded.

This post is for non-A list gays like me who are going to Fire Island to relax. You won’t find anything in this post about the Pines, the Pavilion (the Pines dance club) or Tea Dance. In fact, the last few times I’ve gone to Fire Island, I didn’t even set foot in the Pines. I guess that makes me a Grove person. So be it.

One of the good things about squeezing your Fire Island vacation into two days is that you’ll be able to splurge. And you will splurge. Fire Island is very expensive. That’s because everything has to be shipped in from the “mainland” (i.e., Long Island).

Day 1

My first stop when I get off the ferry and after I’ve dropped my bags at the Belvedere (a “guest house for men” and my preferred place to stay in Cherry Grove) is Sand Castle for their lobster roll. Don’t bother with the French fries. That’s not why you’re paying $35 and, besides, you’re not allowed to eat carbs on Fire Island.

After lunch you’ll have time for a swim (if you can call three strokes in the Belvedere pool a “swim”) and a walk on the beach. That’s the one thing the Grove Hotel has over the Belvedere: they have a better pool. But the Belvedere is an architectural masterpiece and the Grove Hotel has all the charm of a Motel 6.

But I digress.

I don’t like to just lie (or sit) on the beach. That’s boring. Walking is good exercise and you’ll see a lot of hot guys (if you’re walking in the Pines), but I should point out that they’ll probably ignore you unless you’re also hot. In which case, you’d probably be staying in the Pines anyway. I also don’t like going in the water because I’m terrified of waves. If God wanted people to swim in the ocean, he wouldn’t have invented swimming pools.

After your walk on the beach, it’s time for dinner. I suggest Island Breeze. Actually, I’d suggest Top of the Bay, but every time I’ve gone there in the last few years they’ve been “full.” (Maybe because I was by myself?)

At Island Breeze I had an excellent sesame-crusted tuna. But if you’re going to have dessert, stay away from the churros, unless you like your carbs fried and with sugar.

If you time your dinner properly (sunset is deal), you’ll segue right into Hedda Lettuce’s show at Cherry’s (if it’s a Monday). Lettuce can write jokes and sing, which makes her a rarity among drag queens. (I kid the drag queens!) But I’d suggest standing in the back unless you have a strong ego.

Monday is also Broadway Sessions at the Ice Palace, where they have Broadway singers perform. I unfortunately missed it this time because I assumed they were just going to have another drag queen. (Oh, snap! Did I say that?)

Day 2

Breakfast at Floyd’s is a must. I recommend the Farmer’s Eggs, a combination of eggs, sausage (or bacon), potatoes and toast. You might want to break the carb rule for this one.

After breakfast, you have time for another swim, or you can just relax until lunch.

I hate to suggest Sand Castle again, but they are on the ocean. And since you can’t order lobster roll twice (well, you can, but I’m trying to give you options), you can try to Cobb salad. Just bear in mind that even when you try to order something healthy on Fire Island, they somehow find a way to make it unhealthy (usually by adding French fries or bacon).

After lunch you have time for another walk on the beach and then, voila! You’ve done it. You’ve fit your entire Fire Island vacation into two days and you still have time to catch the 6pm ferry.

If you follow my schedule carefully, you might even be able to squeeze in some sex.

A room fit for a queen (i.e., me)

F.k.a. The Bay Leaf, f.k.a. The Monster under construction

New, very Pines-looking house on Bayview Walk

Sunset

Sesame-crusted tuna

Hedda Lettuce

Belvedere at night

Wanda Sykes sighting!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Howard Jones, Midge Ure, Getting Older, WLIR and the Concert Industry

I went to see Howard Jones and Midge Ure at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts last night and a good time was had by all. I’d previously seen Howard Jones’s “acoustic trio” perform at Sony Hall in New York City back in February, so I already knew that he puts on a good show. He also strikes me as a genuinely nice person. (In fact, all the people I’ve seen in concert strike me as nice people. Maybe that’s part of their success?)

Anyway, I was looking forward to this “full concert” experience (as opposed to the “acoustic trio,” which nevertheless was able to produce a great sound) and Jones did not disappoint. Mostly.

He did perform a remixed version of “The One Who Loves You,” which was a bit of a disappointment for me, as I’d been looking forward to hearing it since February. (He didn’t perform it in his acoustic show.) I know artists need to keep things interesting for themselves as well as their audience, but I’ve listened to the original version a million times and was quite satisfied with it. (You may have noticed that I’m a bit of a control freak.) Fortunately, the hits were all there and the audience sang along.

The real surprise for me this time was Midge Ure, whom I never thought I’d see in concert ever, as I was convinced he was a studio creation, as was the stereotype about many ‘80s bands. (See my review of the Tears for Fears concert at Jones Beach.) Imagine my surprise when I saw that he could actually play guitar! And despite looking quite a bit older than his Ultravox days (I know, I shouldn’t talk), his voice was still perfect! In addition to playing several of his Ultravox hits, he really blew me away when he played Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” which he co-wrote.

It’s interesting that Jones decided to play Long Island and not New York City on this tour and I’m wondering why. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that WLIR, the former Long Island radio station (it’s now available online) was responsible (along with KROQ in Los Angeles) for breaking many New Wave bands in America in the ’80s. But I’m wondering if part of it doesn’t have to do with the concert business itself.

The reason I mention this is because, after I saw The Psychedelic Furs at Pier 17 on Friday (see my review), I checked Ticketmaster's website to see how much tickets would be for Blondie and Elvis Costello, who are also playing there. What I found was what was being referred to as “verified resale” tickets, which basically amounts to legalized scalping. While these tickets normally sell for $49.50, the cheapest ticket for Blondie was $114 and the cheapest ticket for Elvis Costello was $225. I would have happily paid $49.50 to see them, but since I’ve already seen both of them, there’s no way I was going to pay those outrageous prices.

A large chunk of the concert industry is controlled by one company, Live Nation Entertainment, which consists of Live Nation, which promotes concerts, and Ticketmaster, which sells tickets. That’s what’s known as a vertically integrated monopoly, and it’s supposed to be illegal. (The only thing they don’t own in this arrangement is the concert venues themselves.)

So while it may seem like I’ve been seeing a lot of concerts lately (and I have), it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing many more—unless the tickets are more reasonably priced.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Psychedelic Furs and X

I went to see The Psychedelic Furs again at Pier 17 last night (with X opening) and, I’m happy to report, they were MUCH BETTER than their show at the Apollo two weeks ago! They cleared up the sound problem on “The Ghost in You” and the missing xylophone on “Love My Way” didn’t bother me as much. (They duplicated the xylophone part on keyboards, and the keyboard and drum parts were spot on this time.)

Opening for the Furs was X. They played a combination of—what would you call their music? Rockabilly? Surf rock? Tex-Mex? Anyway, they rocked, and their guitarist, Billy Zoom, was a virtuoso on the order of Chris Spedding (whom I saw play with Robert Gordon at Coney Island Baby a few years ago).

Also, the venue, the roof of Pier 17 (which I’ve never been to before) is a great place to see a concert, with views of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and—especially good for these Covid pandemic times—outdoors.

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Psychedelic Furs and Tears For Fears

I recently had the chance to see two bands on my bucket list: The Psychedelic Furs at the Apollo Theater and Tears for Fears at the Jones Beach Theater. (At my age, my bucket list consists of bands to see before they die.)

I purchased my tickets for The Furs almost a year ago and their concert was postponed twice, so I was a little bit concerned before I saw them. I’m happy to say that Richard Butler can still kick ass. (Butler strikes me as a cross between David Bowie and Johnny Rotten: a crooner with a punk attitude.) I was mostly pleasantly surprised, but I had two minor disappointments. I’d been looking forward to hearing them play “Love My Way,” but when they played it, it was sort of anti-climactic. The distinctive xylophone part that opens the song was missing, replaced by a keyboard line (How do you play that song without a xylophone?!!!) and the keyboard and drum parts that have been tattooed on my brain were also gone. There was also some kind of sound problem during “The Ghost in You.” I’m not sure if Butler couldn’t hear himself (he kept touching his earpiece, as if he was saying “What the fuck?”) or he was singing to a backing track, but it sounded like two different vocals, and one of them was out of tune. At this point, “The Psychedelic Furs” has several new members, but their drummer, Zack Alford, also kicked ass--this is a rock and roll band! I also liked the song “No One,” from their new album, Made of Rain. Why isn’t WDRE playing it?

Tears For Fears is a different kind of band, but I was also pleasantly surprised. A lot of ‘80s bands have a reputation for being “hair bands” or “pretty boys,” but Tears For Fears are real musicians. They were also backed up by an excellent background singer, Carina Round, who provided great vocals on songs like “Woman in Chains” and “Suffer the Children," the latter of which she sang entirely by herself. Even though Roland Orzabal now looks like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings,” his voice is still in excellent shape. And Curt Smith (who, I have to admit, really is a pretty boy, even now) also sounded great.

So sometimes you can see your heroes--four decades later--and they (mostly) don’t disappoint.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Supreme Death Court

I couldn’t sleep last night. I woke up this morning and I’m still angry.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned New York’s concealed carry law. On the same day, the Senate passed a weak gun control law that doesn’t address any of the major issues: banning assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines or raising the age to buy guns.

It’s like we took one half step forward and one million steps backward.

We’re becoming a society where we’re going to need metal detectors in every public building. They already have them in theaters in concert halls. Now, if you don’t like what a comedian says, you can just shoot him.

I’m trying to write jokes about this, but reality is outstripping the most cynical thing I could ever think of.

Bill Maher jokes about extreme wokeness: If it sounds like an Onion headline, don’t do it. But the opposite is also true. If the most outrageous far-right thing I can think of is reality, how am I supposed to joke about it?

Here’s my attempt at a joke: New York will now be installing metal detectors in the subway. Too far-fetched? They’re already checking people’s bags. What are they going to do now that concealed carry is legal?

Another attempt: How many guns can you hide under Supreme Court robes? I don’t know, but they’re gonna need ’em.

Too much? They’ve already asked for increased security.

Someone on Twitter said they should take away the Supreme Court’s security detail and just give them guns. I agree. They should know the fear that every American now feels.

Faith in the Supreme Court is now at its lowest level in history. Only 25% of Americans have faith in the Supreme Court.

I’m not surprised.

It’s going to be the wild West out there.

In the past, if there was an argument, it might wind up in a fist fight. Now it winds up with one or more people dead.

That’s what happens when you have a country with more guns than people.

A few years ago, after the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, there were police sharpshooters with machine guns guarding the New York City Pride Parade to prevent a similar attack.

The Supreme Court just made the their job a lot harder.

I no longer feel safe in this country.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

America’s Uncivil War

This morning I awoke to an email from The New York Times about the latest mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, but I didn’t read the article. I didn’t read the article because, frankly, I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed because mass shootings have become an almost daily occurrence in the United States and our government has become powerless to do anything about it. Our government has become incapable of exercising the will of the American people.

Part of this is because our government is inherently undemocratic. From a Senate that gives the same number of senators to Rhode Island as it does to California, to an Electoral College that twice in the last 22 years has given the presidency to someone who didn’t win the popular vote, to the Supreme Court, which has become yet another partisan branch of government. (Then again, when you over 400 million guns combined with a nearly nonexistent mental healthcare system, that’s a recipe for disaster.)

Every time our democracy fails, people like Vladimir Putin use that as proof of their theory that democracies don’t work. I know that there’s a war between democracy and autocracy going on in Ukraine, but we can’t even defend our own democracy at home.

Ironically, this is precisely the kind of environment that’s a breeding ground for authoritarians and dictators. It gets to the point where people get so fed up, they just want “law and order,” even if they have to give up some of their rights in order to get it.

I keep thinking of that line in Network where Howard Beale says, “Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."

That’s increasingly how I (and I suspect many others) feel, especially now that so many people are working from home. We’re all just crawling into our own personal fortresses just to stay sane.

I often joke, “Thank God I live in the independent republic of New York City” because I increasingly feel like I wouldn’t even be safe between the two coasts. I actually feel safer in New York, because of its tough gun laws, then I would in, say, Texas.

This is the kind of environment that swept Trump into power and could sweep him into power again if Democrats don’t get their act together RIGHT NOW.

For the last three days, I’ve been having conversations with my friends about the increasing incivility of American people (all people?), at every level of society, from my neighborhood, with its noise and graffiti, to comedians being attacked on stage, to the assault on the Capitol. It’s starting to feel like nobody’s in charge.

Why is this happening?

I think part of it can be traced to the Covid pandemic, which, in addition to killing one million Americans, has been far more destructive than I think anyone thought it would be. For almost two years, we’ve been essentially locked up in our homes, and I honestly think that people have forgotten how to behave in public (assuming they knew how in the first place).

I think the other part can traced to Donald Trump, who, through his words and actions, gave permission to people to say and do things that, prior to his presidency, were, at the very least, considered impolite.

What else?

Police departments (or at least New York City’s police department) that basically stopped enforcing the law (especially quality-of-life laws) after the Black Lives Matter protests.

I hate to sound like I’m defending Rudolph Giuliani’s “broken windows” theory of policing, but there has to be a way to enforce the law without resorting to his racist stop-and-frisk tactics.

Bill Maher did a segment on his show this week that showed shoplifters brazenly stealing from a drug store while security guards just stood there and watched. And anyone who’s ridden the subway in New York City (that is, anyone who still is riding the subway) can attest to the number of homeless people—some of whom are obviously mentally ill—who have made the subways their home. Yes, Mayor Adams has added more police to the subways, but a lot of times they’re just looking at their cell phones.

We shouldn’t be worried about foreign countries attacking us. (OK, we should, but not exclusively.) We should be worried about ourselves.

I have seen the enemy and it is us.