Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Crying Crib

Even though my trip to LA lasted barely 48 hours, I was anxious to get back home. Having lost one of my cats less than a week earlier, I was feeling a great need to be with his surviving brother. I’ve always been fond of my pets, but I’ve not been the type of cat owner who dotes on his cats as if they were my children. I have operated under the theory that they have their lives and I am mine, and we happily coexist and connect regularly but not in a codependent relationship.

Perhaps once a day the cats would come meowing for me, but they were connected to each other on a far deeper level than with me.

This evening Bunter has been unusually clinging, and I’ve not minded the attention. We’re both mourning the loss of his brother, and there is great comfort in knowing he is with me. But I struggle with the amount of attention to give him so it does not make our next separation too painful.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

And Today I Was Here

Wrapping up a week of work travel that began at home but logging in 150+ miles a day with trips to the north, east and south bay, I had lunch and boardwalk stroll with co-workers in Santa Moncia. Technically the end point of Route 66, it was an appropriate end to a week's journey that will include a morning flight home to tend to my mourning, solitary cat. I am still wrapping my mind around to referring to felines in the singular form and not seeing the two brothers curled up in matching crescents in their bed.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where in the World Is JunkThief Today?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I managed to mark today, my 50th birthday, exactly the way I wanted it. No party. No icky birthday cake. A few cards came, from family and coworkers, but it went the way I wanted it, without fanfare. The fact that I worked 14 hours may have been less than ideal, but that was fine too.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Running up that hill

Our CEO is in town this week. She is always a pleasure to travel with, but it has been an intense schedule with me traveling up Franklin (and down Gough) at least twice a day to transport her to and from her hotel. Not complaining, but...

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Was Andy The First JunkThief?

Despite all the sadness of dealing with another death this weekend, I did manage to finish all four hours of the Ric Burns take on the life of Andy Warhol. It was a good source of letting me focus on something else. The first two hours and arguably the first hour of the latter episode were the strongest in that they built up to his career in the sixties. He continued to be productive in the last 17 years of his life but certainly not with the same level of cultural change. There was virtually no mention of Interview magazine, the Heat/Trash/Flesh films or even that much mention of his discovery of new artists in the 1980s. Perhaps the film would have been better suited ending in 1968 with the shooting and covering one intense period of time the way last year's No Direction Home did. The review of Warhol's youth and disdain of his appearance was not new information, but it was dealt with in far greater detail and sympathy than any piece I've seen to date. Yet it was not an apology for his coolness to those young people who self destructed. I also would have enjoyed a bit more about his collecting obsessions and the discovery of the grandeur of his town house upon death. The release of the book on the work of Jed Johnson this summer, Opulent Restraint, did a nice job of documenting that side of Warhol. Having written a number of entries now about 1962 when I entered first grade, I was struck by how that was frequently cited as the year Warhol's career really exploded. I can recall that the very next year I had an art teacher in second grade who instructed us on the meaning of Op and Pop art, and at six and three-quarters I thought I knew all about it and was ready to become the next Warhol. Perhaps that is where the term Junk Thief first came from. Warhol certainly could qualify as a Junk Thief, taking people and images from the cultural ash or trash bins and calling them his own and reselling them for millions. Consider this the blotted line of the blogasphere...

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Junk Thief Regrets He Is Unable to Attend Today

I will probably pass on pass on the opening on Thursday of the new Bloomingdales on Market Street since I am really not that interested in fighting the crowds. The only thing worse would be having the endure today's dreadful Folsom Street Fair, convincing evidence that substance abuse in the San Francisco gay community is so rampant that it has caused significant brain damage. I will eventually make it to the new Bloomingdales, perhaps a part of the past few months' theme of rembrences of department stores past -- from Au Bonheurs des Dames to John A. Brown & Company.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Whimsey August 9, 1989 - September 23, 2006

I made the excruciating decision to have one of my two cats, Whimsey, euthanised this morning. During his dental procedure today, the vet confirmed that he had several inoperable tumors in his jaw. She said I had the options of having the comfort of him around me but suffering in great pain or having her do the procedure now while he was in a peaceful sleep. I wondered several times today if it would have been better have let him come back awake before the procedure was done, but that would have only been for my benefit and not his.

This last shot above was taken yesterday evening at Pets Unlimited while we waited for the vet. Even when he cried out in pain as the vet examined his jaw, he was still purring. I have never known an animal that loved humans so much. Even cat-haters fell for his charm.

It has been sad to see his brother, obviously aware and sad about his absence. The past two days I could sense something different in their relationship, as if they were comforting each other and instinctively aware that their 17 years as brothers would soon end. And, thinking back over the past month, I saw the two of them napping together more often, obviously not for warmth. I know my time with the remaining cat, Bunter, is likely brief as well, and I am intent on giving him as much attention as possible.

At least my last moments with him were positive. Even though he must have been in great pain, he was still an unstoppable purr machine. Perhaps that was the hardest part of making my decision. How could I be the one to end a life that still exuded so much joy and love. Even as the vet or I opened his mouth to examine his bleeding jaw and he howled, he was still purring. I cannot say there was a blessing in this, but I know I made the right decision even if I regret it.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Bunter Warhol - Cat About Town

I've not made it all the way through the Ric Burns' Andy Warhol documentary -- about 1/3rd of the way so far -- but it made me recall my Christmas card from around 2002 featuring one of my cats. Calling it "Bunter Warhol, Cat About Town," the card was a fairly popular piece. Today Bunter's brother, Whimsey, had to go back to the vet for what is likely an abscessed tooth. After not having to deal with wet cat food for nearly 18 years, that and paying cat sitters when I am gone, will likely soon be a part of my reality.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Neurotic Like Me

A (more or less accurate) transcription of conversation. Avis Rental Car return, 4:51 p.m.

Attendant 1: She wouldn’t hear any of it.

Attendant 2: Yeah, they can be that way at that age. (To me.) Hi sir, you might want to pull to the right so you got a little more room.

Me: Okay. (I back out and re-enter.)

Attendant 1: I just wouldn’t put up with it if a kid was that way with me. They have to own their actions.

Attendant 1: It’s like that movie, Poltergeist. (To me.) How did the Cobalt work out for you sir?

Me: Fine.

Attendant 2: What are you talking about? Poltergeist?

Attendant 1: (Checking the serial number on the windshield) You know, that movie, Poltergeist.

Attendant 2: Oh, I’ve seen it. Scary as shit.

Attendant 1: (Opening the passenger door) Where are the keys? Oh, yeah, here. Well, she’s like that little girl. “I didn’t do it mommy. I didn’t do it.”

Attendant 2: First time I saw it, thought I was gonna crap my pants, all those aliens running around.

Attendant 1: “I didn’t do it mommy.” No, there aren’t any aliens in Poltergeist.

Attendant 2: Sure there are, they go around scaring that ugly little white girl and eating people.

Attendant 1: (Getting out of the car and keying numbers into her pad.) They are not aliens. They’re…poltergeists.

Attendant 2: That’s right, poltergeist aliens.

Attendant 1: They are not aliens! (To me) Keep this on the same card sir?

Me: Sure.

Attendant 2 They are. They’re aliens, where else would they come from?

Attendant 1: The spirit world, or wherever poltergeists come from?

Attendant 2: From outer space, that’s why they’re so spooky. They come from some planet where everybody’s really ugly. They’re really not mean. They’re just ugly and don’t know better.

Attendant 1: (To me, handing my ticket.) Did you leave anything from the car, sir? Cell phone? Jacket? Any other personal accoutrements?

Me: No.

Attendant 2: Whatever you say, but I know that those poltergeists are aliens, ‘cause in 38 years I’ve never seen anything like them on this planet.

Attendant 1: They have to be ghosts because they come up from the ground to haunt people trying to build on their burial ground.

Attendant 2: Didn’t you see War of the Worlds? Those aliens had been living underground for centuries and then came up to scare people. Aliens can come from underground, not just the sky.

Attendant 1: That was different in War of the Worlds. They really were aliens. (To me) Anything else sir?

Me: No.

Attendant 1: All I know was she was like that little girl in the movie. “I didn’t do it mommy.”

Attendant 2: Right, the aliens did it.

Attendant 1: (To me) Thank you very much for choosing Avis, and have a great flight. No, because they are poltergeists not aliens. (To me) Do you need directions to the terminal, sir

Me: No

Attendant 2: They may have been ghosts or poltergeists, but they were alien ghosts.

Attendant 1: (To me) Thank you, sir, and hope you choose Avis again. That’s insane! Have you ever seen a dead alien?

Attendant 2: Have you ever seen a poltergeist?

Me: (Silently, in my head.) They're back!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Vanquished Splinter, #5

While sorting through things at my parents house (I still can't get around to calling it my house, and I own only half of it), I came across several boxes from the vanished or vanquished department stores of Kansas City and Oklahoma City's past. Rothschild's and John A. Brown's. What I recall about he former is the shoe salesman who would appear on the Foreman Scotty Show afternoons on the local NBC affiliate. He had little cartoons about how your feet need to have a good house and encouraging you to have your parents bring you to Rotschild's for a proper fit. And when you walked into their Penn Square Store, there he was ready to fit you. I always loved that he was a TV personality you could actually meet and serve you. John A. Brown's had a number of branches, but its old flagship store downtown was the absolute best. I remember a glassed in second store skywalk that connected its two buildings. I also recall its blue-haired clerks, many of whom were likely hired during the Hoover Administration. The women in my family bought many hats there, evidenced by these relics that I doubt will be going to Goodwill any time soon.

The (Almost) Vanquished Splinter - # 4

A strong memory from my childhood was passing by the golden domed Citizen’s National Bank near NW 23rd Street and Classen, when I went to visit my aunt a few blocks west in the Gateway neighborhood. Built in 1956, it was one of the first geodesic domes in the world. Three years ago it was set for demolition to build…a Walgreens. Fortunately, it was spared through historic preservation status, and the drug store went up across the street.

Stronger memories are of seeing the glowing lights of the adjacent Citizen’s Tower, reportedly “inspired” by Price Tower in Bartlesville, the only completed high rise designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Citizen’s Tower is now being converted into a condo complex called “The Classen.” Although I like it in theory, I think I’d be happier if it remained an office building.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Political Shoes?

Can you judge a person' s (more specifically a man's) politics by the shoes he is wearing? I have been proven wrong a couple of times, but I would guess that 85-90% of the men who wear tassle loafers are die-hard Republicans. It's also pretty fair to guess that they live somewhere in between Incline Village, California, and Pissburgh, Pennsylvania. Granted, I could be wrong, but that's a theory I have developed after a significant amount of recent travel in that part of the country. Not that I spend that much time looking down at men's feet, mind you...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Vanquished Splinter, #3

I am not positive of the first movie I saw when the Continental Theater opened in northwest Oklahoma City, part of a chain with similar theaters in Denver and Tulsa. It always reminded me of a much scaled down version of Lincoln Center. I know that I saw Dr. Doolittle, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s and New York, New York there. Built in 1965 late in the Cinerama and road show era, it closed in 1983. The last movie that I recall seeing there is a butchered print of Fiddler on the Roof, secretly holding hands with a boyfriend of the moment. He was an internist afraid he might run into a fellow physician from the hospital across the Northwest Expressway. Equally emblematic of the era, is the United Founders Tower just north of the theater. It feels like something out of the latter part of the mob era in Vegas. It’s the type of building Vegas started tearing down in the late 1980s, so It’s good that it and the Continental still stand, regardless of their current condition. We can hope they are not converted into churches or venues for swap meets.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Vanquished Splinter, #2

29 Years ago, Oklahoma City gained the dubious distinction of being the only city in the world to demolish a building over 30 stories -- the former Biltmore-Sheraton-Oklahoma Hotel. This is the first of about 35 frames I shot on top of the OG&E tower thanks to my uncle Harvey. Within seconds, everyone moved to the floors below as the debris moved north -- a spooky mix of smoke and funky moisture. Hours later, rumors emerged that there were images of someone on the top floor, possibly a vagrant, flashing arms just as the blast occured. I eventually wrote a really bad musical about the person that was on that top floor. One of those musicals that is best left in the deep bottom drawer of memory.

18 years...

Did I mention that today is my 18th year at work. Definitely my longest tenure to date. If I'd given birth to a child that day, she/he could be voting and buying beer today, though I would hope not at the same time. My CEO left a "happy anniversay" message after landing at SFO today. I wish I were a bit more in a mode of celebration about it. I just got news of something like the fifth co-worker in six week to resign. NOT good news. I don't want to be the one to train yet another bright young thing.

At lunch today, the young man across the table learned that I'd been to the same remote region of Guatemala. "Wow, it was hard for me, and I was in my EARLY twenties back then." That made me feel really good to know I am an oldster that can keep up with a 20-something in the mountains of Meso-america.

No, not that sort of tea room

Sometimes I wish that I DID have a one-track mind. Coming back from a business lunch at the new downtown location for Samovar Tea House in Yuerba Buena Center, I got to thinking about how I sometimes think that gay men fall into two types -- those who enjoy these types of tearooms and those who enjoy the other kind of tearooms that in Britain are called "cottages." I won't go into details except to say no thanks, gross, yuck, I'm a hygiene freak. I'm all for sex between two men of consenting age, but not there.

Actually to prove my true nerd-dome, I spent three hours at the tea museum when I went to Hong Kong a decade ago, the only reason to be there more than 24 hours. (Actually, an Englishman named Jeremy, but that's another story of the other tearoom variety....)

But I could write volumes about tea and teapots and the good kind of tea rooms. Writing the earlier post about my first love in first grade and buying a fancy card at the downtown store of Halls got me to thinking about going to various tearooms with my grandmother and other women in the family in the Midwest. In fact, there is an online tearoom guide (no, not that kind), that I find quite interesting. I've sometimes heard that three places in the western hemisphere come the closest to being a replica of Victorian England -- Victoria, British Columbia (duh, with that name, yes); Buenos Aires (at least certain neighborhoods, and the fact that it has a branch of Harrod's) and Kansas City (there was a Merchant-Ivory film – Mr. and Mrs. Bridge set there, after all). I very much remember and miss the tearooms of my childhood with the tall women of my family, something I will likely write about in more detail someday. Kansas City reportedly is second only to Rome as the city with the most public fountains, has more Henry Moore statues than London, and a few more “mosts” that I can’t recall at this moment. I am sure tearooms of the doily and lady finger variety is up there.

All of this got me to thinking about Halls, the local department store I mentioned in this post about my childhood. There used to be many local, city-specific department stores before the days of the Dayton-Hudson and other chains that homogenized the whole experience. If you go to the tearoom of the former City of Paris, now Neiman-Marcus of SF’s Union Square, you still get a bit of it. That’s why I included the link to Halls in the above mentioned post. Just opening that site and hearing its harp strumming entrée gives you a sense of this very local, very old department store unique to Kansas City. I have strong memories of the old, now departed downtown store, and even the Crowne Plaza and Country Club Plaza stores. The sound of those harp strings makes me think of women in hats who in just a couple of years would be the ridicule of the opening line of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Venture into the tearoom of Halls, and I bet you’ll get an affirmative response to the question Elaine Stritch so desperately needed to have answered 36 years ago: “Does anyone…still…wear….a….HAT?”

All that having been said, I must admit certain things that I have more than a few dozen of -- books, ex-boyfriends, shoes, CDs, DVDs, plants, ties, blazers, samples of foreign currency, pants, shirts, sweaters, cuttlery, cotton swabs...teas pots. I must admit my most favorite acquisition is this one that I got in Antigua in February. I also must admit that my favorite tea is the black rose tea from Red Blossom Tea Company on Grant Street. Though in
the middle of cheesy tourist shops in the heart of Chinatown, this place is my favorite spot for tea in SF. Good service and no pretense. Okay, just a little, but it's good value. Put those two together, and I can forget however many dozen shoes or ex-boyfriends I've ever had or want again...

Okay, this entry just proved my advance be it. I'm heading off for a
tearoom with hats and doilies...And, yes, I promise no Fiestaware, Roseville pottery or Frankhoma pottery on this site...unless you insist on seeing my vast colllection...

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seen in My Neighborhood

The Vanquished Splinter - #1

Back in the 1980s, there was a book series called The Vanished Spendor that looked back at territorial and early statehood Oklahoma City through old postcards of the era. Vanished, yes, but probably never all that splendid. With my father's illness, death and now settling the estate taking me back there frequently over the next few months, I decided to present some of my own memories of less ancient but vanished images. I plan to call it The Vanquished Splinter Series. Here is exhibit #1: Dreesen's Poodle Parlour. What a little gem this one was! San Franciscans may bemoan the loss of the Doggie Diner, but that docile, expressionless canine can't hold a candle to the limp-wristed, prissy pup luring customers into Dreesen's. I snapped this around 1984, and I think it was gone three to four years later. Somewhere around NW 23rd Street and Walker, if memory serves me properly. I think it was actually on Walker just south of 23rd. I'd love to know if anyone knows anything about the place, or even better who designed the sign and what piss-elegant pooch posed for the sign.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

44 Years Ago - I Was a Grade School Boy Tart

September 1962. I felt under so much pressure. Last year was fun, but I knew kindergarten had been just a lark. My carefree days as a four-year-old helping mommie bake cakes were over. She'd have to fend for herself from now on. This was the real thing. I had to perform. I had to please, especially my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was the one that sent me to that counselor, Dr. Larkin, who tried to figure out why I was at the top of the class one week and at the bottom the next week. Grandpa said that there was only one option for me, and sitting silent was not it.

This was the real thing. My only competition was Gloria S____ who was always barely 2-3 points behind my scores. But she didn’t know phonics, and I’d been reading since I was three and a half, so I really didn’t worry that much about her.

The greatest concern I had, however, was whether or not Johnny M____ would be my friend. He had always been really nice to me on the bus. When other kids made fun of me for being the only kid in kindergarten to wear glasses, he pointed out that glasses were a sign of intelligence and that it would be in their best interest to be nice to me because I could help them cheat on tests. It never occurred to me that Johnny M____ might have been selling me into some form of intellectual slavery. I was too overwhelmed by this older boy whom I desperately wanted to have as my friend, an actual first grader standing up for me, to take time to question his intentions. I couldn’t let his comment stand by itself and had to blurt out, “And I’ve been wearing glasses since I was two and a half.” The moment I said it I worried that I’d gone too far. I was doing what my grandpa told me never to do: brag. But before my snooty words had even had a chance to curdle, Johnny M_____ turned around and, almost sneering, told the other boys, “Yeah…so that means he’s been smart for a LONG time. So you guys better be nice to him.” After he said it, he smacked those lips, like a pair of crab apples glistening in their own sweet syrup.

I felt as if a shaken up can of Mountain Dew were exploding inside of my chest. Now I had what I had always wanted, a protector, an older brother. After Johnny turned around, I looked at the closely cropped dark hair at the back of his neck, the bottom tip of which barely slipped under the top of the collar of his plaid flannel shirt. I wondered if it felt the same as the fake fur on the neck of my stuffed toy monkey that I stroked 200 times each night before I let my mind shut off so I could sleep.

Even before school started, I had heard that Johnny was being held back a year and would be in my first grade class with Mrs. S______ . I loved the way that sounded, “held back a year,” and I thought of holding back Johnny from whatever I knew he would ultimately run to and no longer be my protector and big brother. I wondered what it would be like to hold Johnny for an entire year, and how long it would take before he would push me away.

In class, I always watched Johnny closely when he was called on to read. I couldn’t even hear what was coming from his mouth, because all I could think about were the lips on his mouth. They were so different from the lips of all of the other boys, so much larger and ablaze with a stronger, more intense color. I searched trough my 72-count Crayola box but could not come up with the perfect color that was on Johnny’s mouth. It certainly wasn’t any shade of red or the pale dusty rose of all the girls’ thin lips. The closest I could come to was raw umber, if only because of the way it sounded. After school, I would pause from playing with my Tonka Trucks and repeat the words “raw umber,” closing my eyes and thinking of Johnny’s lips and wondering how they got that perfect, moist shade. Did he dip them every morning in some strong strawberry jelly? And then I would think of Johnny’s wounded black bean eyes as they stared at me pleading for help as Mrs. S________ scolded him for his awkward reading.

Each day, I longed for recess when Johnny and I pretended to play, when I was actually drilling him until he could memorize the words that he could not iterate from the page. I envied kids who actually could find time to play, when I felt I had so much work to do to help out Johnny and also please my grandfather by being the top in my class. Slowly, his reading was improving, and sometimes we sat with a book during lunch as I helped him with the words. "You're a lots better teacher than Mrs. S________, Gregg. Maybe you should teach our class."

"Yes, perhaps I should," I said. "I'm sure we'd learn much more." One day after school
I was thumbing through a copy of Look magazine and saw the headline "Why Johnny Can't Read." I was very upset that my Johnny was being ridiculed in a national magazine and asked my mother if we could write a letter to the editor complaining. Perhaps if I protected him he wouldn't feel the pressure to take care of me and wouldn't mind if I held him back for another year.

Our friendship was reciprocal as he taught me how to shoot hoops and reach the highest rung of the monkey bars, unfathomable tasks that were as natural to him as breathing.

When it happened on February 14, it was one of the few acts in my life I did not plan. I asked Johnny to go behind the piano with me, and then I handed him my crisp glittery Valentine that my grandmother had helped me pick out at Halls flagship store in downtown Kansas City. Johnny hung his head, the way he did whenever he read, his strawberry lips heavy as if filled with sand. He pulled from his pocket a folded card, obviously one retooled from last year. A faded heart cut with pinking shears was glued onto red construction paper. The Mountain Dews spewing inside of me prevented me from even processing the meaning of his prose, each roughly hewn word a jewel I felt I needed hours to digest without fainting as I wrapped my mind around the mishapen letters scrawled in burnt sienna crayon. All I could see was that he’d spelled my name perfectly with all three Gs, followed by a small drawing of a heart with smiles and two tiny bean eyes. It was then I knew I had to find out for sure what I so desperately needed to know -- planning to count to ten before acting, as Johnny stood there with his head hung low. But on the count of six I lost my resolve and planted my first kiss on his forehead. My lips brushed his left cheek on the count of eight. And then, not sure of any numbers now, our lips met, my hand under his chin. His enormous big bean eyes seemed to be bursting with so much excited protein, and I felt so enemic.

My idyl was interupted by a braying, familiar voice. “Hey, what are you two doing?” Gloria S_____, now only 1-2 points behind me in class, stood at the other end of the piano, her hand on her right hip while she stoked her curly blonde mop of hair. “Don’t you have one of those for me?” she asked, puckering up. “No,” I said defiantly, my hand on my left hip. I glanced back at Johnny, his head still hanging, wounded, as his he’d just butchered a page from a basil reader.

“Not even for this,” Gloria S____ asked, holding out a nickel. “Well, okay,” I said, barely planting my lips for a split second on he right cheek. Sylvia T___ then appeared with a dime. And then Tina W______ and Amy G_____ and Tonya R_____. Finally, Big Brenda J_____ entered with two quarters, and I performed the bitter duty of planting my lips on her greasy forehead.

The news spread within seconds, a line of falling dominos that had reached the sixth grade and my sister’s class who all taunted me on the long bus ride home.

Over our chipped beef and noodle dinner, she shared the story with my parents. Wiping his mouth on a red gingham napkin, my father repeated my sister's final words curtly and without judgment. “Nine girls, Gregg. And did you enjoy yourself?” “Only at the beginning, with Johnny. Now I know that his lips taste like raspberries, not strawberries.” My father patted my head and repeated, “That’s right, and now you know. Be sure to give the girls back their money tomorrow or you’ll come to regret it. Come on now, get your plate to the sink. The Flintstones are on in ten minutes.”

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Real Estate Envy -- What Does All of This Mean, Doktor Freud?

Sorting through back issues of magazines, last night I reread the article in New York magazine about the townhouse where Montgomery Clift spent the last years of his life (1960-1966) that is back on the market. When I lived just across the park in the late 1980s, I used to make pilgrimages to the address, 217 East 61st Street, which went on the market in June for $5.5 million. Were I not shy a million or so I just might plop down the cash to make that baby mine. I can’t think of many other celebrity venues that I’d like to call my own.

It’s in an interesting part of the city where a seemingly unconnected group of celebrities have lived through the years – Eugene O’Neill, Ivanka Trump, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Rivers, Spike Lee, Sally Jesse Raphael, Matt Lauer, Ivana Trump, Benny Goodman, David Geffen all within 2-3 blocks of each other, according to another New York Magazine piece this summer which featured a star map.

Since the chances of me ever buying the place are probably pretty slim, it started my mind wondering if I still have another rather rare Monty Clift possession – a VHS tape of the 1962 John Huston film Freud: The Secret Passion. Well I do, wedged onto the same tape in between the 1989 Elizabeth Taylor-Mark Harman TV remake of Sweet Bird of Youth directed by Nicolas Roeg and the so called “gay sex” episode of 30Something I found a nearly pristine copy of a WNET broadcast of the film. Pristine is perhaps a bit too generous, but I managed to transfer it over to a pretty decent DVD copy. Generally the film is dismissed as a disaster. And while it may be that, it certainly isn’t unwatchable and has one of the weirdest conglomerations of talent imaginable – a screenplay crafted by Jean Paul Sartre, Wolfgang Reinhardt and Charles Kaufman, a cast that includes Larry Parks, who once played Jolson and was attacked by HUAC during the Hollywood Blacklist, and Susanah York and David McCallum. The film has a look that fuses German Expressionism, Film Noir and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, especially in the lecture hall scenes. The imagery and convergence of such unlikely collaborators makes for a film that is hard to look away from and is so, well, Freudian.

A commercial DVD or VHS of the film has never been released that I am aware of, at least in the U.S., and airings such as the one I managed to nab on tape are pretty rare. After years of being trashed, it seems to have slowly started gaining some positive reviews from the few who have actually seen it. The other film it comes the closest to reminding me of from the same era is The Innocents that comes from another realm of psychological thriller that sat in the vaults for four decades before being released last year. We can hope Freud will find the same fate for those of us who just won’t be able to plop down the money for that little townhouse on East 61st in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just Shots (no thoughts)

I'm tired tonight, so just some images from an early evening walk to replace my ink cartridge. Actually my mind has been working on overtime this past 48 hours, so I was glad to just walk, snap a few images and listen to Debussy for an hour and a half. Public art and 19th Century French music always delivers me to where I need to be.

Claudine Longet – Dreams That Don’t Come True

It’s not as if I am a big old fag, but…certain women (I will not say “divas,” a term I reserve only for women who sing Puccini, Verdi and Wagner, and few of whom were born after 1900) from the past that hold a great fascination for me. Libby Holman, Kay Thompson, Ida Cox, Vashti Bunyan – the more obscure the better. And when certain ones make very unexpected comebacks (Vashti’s appearance last week in San Francisco being a good example), I have very mixed emotions. On a charitable level, I am pleased that they have found an audience and paycheck again. But on a personal level, I feel I have lost a personal muse.

One that has been on the periphery of a comeback for a couple of decades is one of my favorites, Cl
audine Longet. Claudine figured huge in my household as a child. Half German-Jewish (my dad’s side) and half French-Canadian (my mom), I was educated from an early age that there were two kinds of women in the world, the bad ones (a.k.a. blondes) and the good ones, dark haired, intelligent women. The more ethnic, the better. But the absolute most intelligent were dark haired French-speaking women. So we watched in anticipation and dread as we weathered the sappy wholesomeness of the Andy Williams Show until we saw little Claudine sing a ditty in that age of Dippity-do and those new-fangled Doritos.

Never mind that Claudine sang in a little baby-girl voice, she was held up as a femini
ne ideal in my house, the essence of what a woman should be – dark-haired, thin, demure. Only the foolish dismissed her as shallow and weak. Just don’t give that little Parisian flower a gun…And it was not with a sense of remorse or surprise when, a decade later, that we learned that she might have had a dark side when she had that little accident with Spider Sabich. Ah, Claudine, where did you go? Her tunes have shown up a number of times on such hip venues as the Gilmour Girls and a Dimitri of Paris album. But where, oh where is the real Claudine? She has not made a public appearance in over 30 years. I am especially fond of her version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," translated into French. Midway through at the big break where others belt it out and yelp, it sounds as if she's doing her nails while she let's the back-up singers do the hard stuff. Now that's a star, knowing when to let your hired help do the dirty work. I would love to hear her revive “Nothing to Lose,” the Henry Mancini tune from Blake Edwards’ The Party. It has a wonderful lyric about not wasting time on dreams of lifetimes in the sun that don’t come true. Isn’t that the best kind of celebrity, all washed up and recounting dreams that crashed? Or is that just a confirmation of me being a big old fag?

I would just love it if Claudine could find a second life in Branson, Missouri, where her ex Andy Williams still performs as well as several other entertainers who could never find a gig in the legit entertainment industry. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they opened the Claudine Longet Theatre and she could feature entertainers who've fallen on the wrong side of the law -- biggies like O.J. and Robert Blake but also a side show with those who've had minor infractions such as Za Za and WInona.

A friend of mine, we’ll call him “Bryce,” has just launched a site featured in my links called JudyMeat. As I like to say, “You just can’t beat JudyMeat!” I must admit that I resisted the appeal of Judy for many, many years. As a kid I always cheered the Wicked Witch of the West. She was, after all, a woman of color (green) mourning the death of her sister and simply didn’t have time to deal with the ills of a girl whose life ambition was to return to…Kansas? But the latter era Judy is compelling – all crazy and messed up on drugs. Looking like a gaunt, punkish boy in drag. From aro
und 1967 to 1969, she is pretty fascinating, especially in her final TV appearances. One of my favorites was on the Tonight Show around the time of her final Christmas when she sang “Til After the Holidays.” It’s pretty gripping TV and was on YouTube for a month or so, and I managed to record the audio. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by her rendition of this song. You can hate Christmas, hate gay divas, hate late night TV, even hate Judy, but this song is all about begging for a tiny glimmer of hope before the candle is extinguished. Come on, give it up for Judy just this one last time before she goes over the dimming rainbow one last time. How sadly fitting that Judy would never see another holiday, never shoot the breeze with Johnny one last time. If you want to see if I really love you, ask me to make a CD of this amazing broadcast. Even spookier than this, is a spot still on YouTube, Judy's July 1968 appearance on The Mike Douglas Show, where she sings "For Once in My Life." Here the paper thin edges of two eras briefly overlap, and the woman from the earlier era holds her hand out to a future that she know she will not realize, a dream that will not come true.

Her official final TV appearance was as the host of The Merv Griffin Show on December 23, 1968. For some really fascinating and spooky images, check out this site.

Oy, vey, that is way too much trivia on someone I supposedly don’t like. Vashti Bunyan, take me away...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts and Shots

I Have Lost Track of the World – images and notions making the walk to and from my writing group tonight.

  • Four books I think I would like to write before dying:
  • Linoleum: An epic novel set against the changing flooring industry in Finland in the 50 years after the war;
  • The Spirit Field of Rats: Do They Have an Afterlife and Are They Watching Us?
  • Profiles of the Most Prominent Female Veterinarians of 19th Century New England
  • Daily Meditations on Dust and Dander
  • There is a certain amount of "outsider art" to be found in the Mission -- not that which is intentially outre, but things such as the pig on the carneceria shop on 24th Street or the man inviting us to come get a trim at Willy's Barber shop on 22nd Street
  • I take comfort in hearing Mahler on longer walks. I especially enjoy hearing Ich bin der Weit abhanden gekommen (I Have Lost Track of the World) while passing the disco ball hanging in the tree on Lexington between 20th and 21st.
  • I take comfort passing the garage where the fatherly Korean mechanic safely stored my bruised car after it was a victim of a terrorist attack last night.
  • I take comfort in managing not to watch any of the newscasts about the fifth anniversary of 9/11, though I did read Moby’s plea for W not to visit Manhattan