This Big Slit

Viva was played by my friend Juliet. Her character was dazed and confused, a role that came easily to her. Why should she be any different than the rest of the cast? Directions were changing in the middle of performances. No one knew what they were supposed to do.

Valerie’s love for Viva is unrequited. But she pursues her anyway with a fool’s hope that she can change her thinking.

Thoughts do not go very deep with Viva. If it doesn’t involve her image, she can’t be bothered.

When Valerie finally understands the score, she identifies Warhol as the source of all her woes. Emboldened by her stirring aria I a Woman, she decides to clean house and off Andy.

Opening the Vault to: 1968, Act Two

American Gothic, ’68 Style

The End of Human Nature

Test shot for my Valerie Solanas look.

One of the reasons I liked Hamilton was because it reminded me of the play Jim and I did, 1968. Both were done to a beat. were heavy on the couplets, and had some wacky, against the grain casting: blacks as whites, men as women, one dude obviously playing three different people. The two plays did not accurately reenact events. Rather, they relayed historical details in an entertaining way.

Acting went through a severe identity crisis in the 20th century. For millennia, stage actors had ruled the roost with exaggerated gestures and loud voices projected to the back of the theater. All this while supposedly whispering sweet nothings in their lover’s ears. It was just accepted by players and audiences that it was the way it was done.

With the advent of film, however, you could physically whisper without all the gimmickry. Relatively speaking. It was still coming across at decibel levels way above normal. But compared to the other sounds in the movie they were just right.

The biggest dilemma in the early days of film making was that all actors had been trained for the stage, a style too broad for cinema. It took decades to breed the ham out of the Barrymores.

When auteurs finally got what they wanted and realized what they had, the pressure in the 50’s and 60’s was to be as natural as possible. And no one did that better than Warhol in Sleep and Empire. So natural, soooo boring.

Once film found its Terms of Endearment niche, there was no way theater could physically compete. It resorted to schmaltzy musicals and endless examinations of self worth. With a smattering of social justice avenging thrown in now and then.

What Jim and Hamilton did was to stop spoon-feeding the audience and use a format that forces them to think.

Art is not a controlled environment where a + b = c.  If the artist does their job creating a + b then c will have a million different values depending on the perceptions of the viewers.

There are no right or wrong answers in art. There are no answers at all. There’s only the experience.

Jump in, Mabel, whenever you’re feeling it.

I once had a fan tell me I reminded him of Mabel Mercer. At first I was offended. I remembered her as being kind of dog meat-ish, a little porky.

As I processed it, however, I thought of the many show business insiders who adored her. Frank Sinatra said she was the master of phrasing and timing. She taught him everything he knew.

If that’s what the fan meant, I’ll take it any day of the week.

August marks the 5th anniversary of ls2lsblog.com. I started in 2014 by circulating drafts to friends for their opinions. In particular, I wondered what Carl and Ellen thought.

Carl’s advice was to keep the pieces at 500 words. You can see how well I’ve done with that.

Ellen, on the other hand, had tried for two decades to engage me in a writing project. The things I showed her never passed muster. She was not mean about it but neither was she satisfied. Her responses were gentle but lethal. “Let me know if you want to continue this.”

When I read the first two words of her reply to the drafts I started to cry: “Well, well…..” It only took 20 years but I was finally on the right track. I’m still riding the fumes.

In late 2017 I promised readers a revamp and new feel for the blog. True to my word and a mere 22 months later that process begins today.

The emphasis is on archiving things of mine and things of the era. Up first is Act One of 1968.

I haven’t formulated an archive plan yet but my style has always been to force the issue then make sense of it later. The Mabel inside me says I can do this.

Opening the vault to: 1968, Act One

SCUM personified.

Happy Christmas Y’all

Nothing says Christmas more than splashes of vibrant color.  So here are some highlights from the portraits Charley Brown did in the early 1980’s.

A couple of them were featured in the New Museum exhibition, Extended Sensibilities, held in October 1982.

Enjoy the yule. (p.s. all artwork used without permission.)

 

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The complete saga, From the Beginning

Life of the Egg Nog Party

In 1971 egg nog was something Richard Nixon and distinguished diplomats sipped at Georgetown parties. Not drug addled, wafer thin, gay hippie boys in Bloomington, Indiana.  That contradiction alone was enough to inspire my first big Christmas party.

The egg nog parties became an annual tradition. The first two were in Bloomington then five more after I moved to San Francisco. The last one was held in 1977 at a friend’s basement shop on Commercial Street in Chinatown. Nog was made available but also lots of champagne. So I rented about 8 dozen coupe glasses from Abbey Rents. By the end of the evening only one dozen remained.

It was the height of the punk era and destruction was the name of the game. Someone started it innocently by accidentally dropping their glass in the corner of the stairway. It was answered with a couple more throws into the corner. Soon it was a barrage, a constant din of shattering glass as every available coupe was hurled onto the pile. When no more glasses could be found, empty bottles were bounced off the walls.

I was left to clean up this heap of broken glass and repair the divots that had been taken out of the plaster. No dummy, I realized I’d lost my deposit on the glasses. But it had been entertaining so I rationalized it was cheaper than hiring a band.

Still, I didn’t have the courage to face Abbey Rents and asked David to take the survivors back on Monday. Even he, who can talk himself out of any situation, was at a loss. “What do I tell them?”

“Just say the buffet table collapsed.”

Next: Office Parties
Previous: John’s Grill
The complete saga, From the Beginning

 

Life, Afterlife and Lowlife

Gravesite Photo Shoot

In 1976 Jim published the final edition of White Arms Magazine devoted completely to me. It was called the B-Centennial Issue.

We decided it needed some photos featuring gravesite drama so I packed up a bunch of friends and we headed to this fabulous cemetery in Oakland. An afternoon of bereavement hilarity followed.

Grandmother used to take me to antique auctions when I was a kid and at one there was this beautiful 19th Century silk crepe widow’s veil. I asked her to buy it for me because it reminded me of the assassination. During the photo shoot I held it in place with a black beret–just like Jackie.

 

 

***

The Jackie Obsession

 

When You’re a Boy

The low spark of high heeled boys. My red platforms, 1972.
The low spark of high heeled boys. My red platforms.

I miss Joan. I was in Chicago today and saw the Bowie Is  show. My life flashed before me in the form of red grease paint over shaved eyebrows. If Miss Rivers was still doing Fashion Police I’m sure she’d feature me on “Who Wore it Best?” Or at the very least “Bitch Stole My Look.”

I loved seeing the costumes up close, especially the shoes. One pair of platforms were very similar to ones I’d had,  4″ high navy and white with pierced pinpoints. They resembled spectator pumps.

I liked his plain black flamenco boots. They had not been restored and you could see flaked leather around the bottoms. It reminded my of how hard platforms were to maintain. They were always scuffed up from being kicked in bars. Or in my case, being drug through gutters.

Life is a pop of the cherry. At the St. Regis trying to crash Mick's Birthday, July 1972.
Life is a pop of the cherry. At the St. Regis trying to crash Mick’s Birthday, July 1972.

There were a few too many handwritten notes and lyric sketches for my taste in the exhibit, things you can see in a book and don’t need to visit a museum for. But the audio grounded the whole thing.

I’m used to typical museum technology of typing “21” into the headset when you were at exhibit 21. “Bowie Is” had wifi earphones. You’d be listening to Changes then take a few steps and you’d hear Heroes.  Back and forth, the music kept up with you.

The song that surprised me most was Boys Keep Swinging. I had forgotten about it but have always loved it. And Bowie nailed the drag in the video, so disaffected with a hint of manliness.

Of the many things I walked away with from the museum, including Terryworld from the gift shop, I kept thinking of the short BBC clip when he was 17. He was group spokesman leading a rebellion of the long hairs. Apparently things had gotten so bad for these boys they’d even been referred to as “darling.”  Davey Jones’ hubris was impressive. Such conviction for something so silly.

Keith Richards always said that Bowie was just posing. Which I thought too except that his music has always affected me. Therein lies the rub.

 

Bowie Is

B ‘R

Next: Life, Afterlife and Lowlife
Previous: Life of Outrage, Life of Beauty
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Life at Home, Alone: Special Halloween Edition of Nude Leaked Photos!

I’d like to write a story about these pictures I found but I don’t even remember them being taken. Just a quite evening at home with my best friend, the bottle, circa 1977.

One of my all time favorite spins on a celebrity PR crisis was when nude photos leaked of Vanessa Williams and she lost her Miss America crown. Her defense was she thought they were “only shooting silhouettes.”

I never liked wearing wigs and, as you can see, they were often treated as an afterthought.

Next: The Curse
Previous: Life of Brian
The complete saga, From the Beginning