Come find yourself...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The New Homosexual

Nothing shortens a journey so pleasantly
as an account of misfortunes
at which the hearer is permitted to laugh.
Quentin Crisp

In the summer of 1990, I went to The Angelica movie theater in downtown Manhattan and saw a movie about the personality/author/all around fabulous queer Quentin Crisp. It was called Resident Alien.

The Angelica is a horrid little theater, with tiny spaces crammed full of mostly pretentious Manhattan moviegoers who have nothing but black clothes and snobbery in their closets. Most of the films which play their are alternative and rarely shown outside of the four biggest cities in the country. While I always will applaud alternative independent movie theaters, I don't applaud the fact most of the movies there are depressing, dull and lack any enthusiasm for life.

It was a hot summer and I hated life in NYC. I was working for a banking firm in midtown Manhattan. Most of the men I worked for were married and all were cheating on their wives. They would have me call their mistresses and arrange for car services and plane tickets for their inclandestine meetings.

It was all very sordid and vile.

During the day they fired people left and right and 'invested' the funds from the firings into other companies to make their portfolio of rich clients even richer. All of them wore designer suits, complained if their coffee was cold and never, ever considered for one second how fortunate they were to be making the kind of money they did. The entitled rarely realize the price they are paying to be entitled.

The surprise will come to them on their death bed when they will see, in stark relief, the error of their ways. But by then it will be too late, won't it?

I went to Resident Alien because it was about the life and times of Quentin Crisp. Quentin, for those too young to remember (or those too self involved to care) was a startling breath of fresh, gay air in a city filled with gym-obsessed men who wore dark leather and prowled the late night streets of Manhattan looking for their next dark man to take their minds away from how meaningless their lives were.

Of course, like drugs, it never worked.

The high of instant sex with a 'real man' faded as fast as it had begun and they were left, the next day, with the truth of their lives - a truth Quentin spent his life discussing.

I adored what Quentin was about. I was one of those gay men in his 20's in Manhattan who read all the time, smoked cigarettes constantly and was always on the outside of gay New York looking in. I wasn't obsessed with the gym, I didn't have any interest in cocaine or K or heroine and I wasn't obsessed with finding a masculine man to fulfill my sexual and emotional fantasies. I was effeminate, openly gay and seeing shows with drag queens on most weekends. Despite the ravages of AIDS gay men were, at the time, obsessed with their bodily image. They needed to feel and look 'healthy' to stave off the fact they were aging and dying.

It's even worse today.

Gay men are divided into two camps: the Bears and the Others.

The Bears are the men who are not interested in going to the gym to look like the Perfect Man and are, instead, either rebellious to the point of being fat or ridiculously muscular. The Bears believe in the cliche idea of the masculine male. They are the ones who write on their Internet sex profiles "masculine seeking masculine" or the favorite "no fat, no fems". They intensely dislike and openly loathe sissy men.

Bears only accept feminine men if they are in full dress and on a stage lyp-syncing to a song by the newest one-name dance queen wonder. If you were to ask a gay man who identities as a Bear why he only wants to be with other similar masculine men who dress in leather, show off their various hairy body parts and refuse to wear cologne or deodorant, he will tell you (in a defensive tone) "I dunno. It's just what I want. I'm a man so I'm attracted to other men. Real men".

Or, he may even say, "I'm attracted to men, not faggots".

The Others are the main majority. They are the most visible portion of gay society. They are the twinks, the muscle jocks, the preppies and the other various subcategories I'm not interesting in naming or dissecting. They are obsessed with bodily image. They are shoppers, integrators but not innovators or thinkers.

They are dissatisfied with how fractured gay men are with one another but will never do anything to challenge or change this issue. They are akin to the senseless, floating majority of heterosexual America...they want cultural junk food and don't want to press the envelope.

The Others and The Bears openly dislike gay stereotypes. They dislike gay sexuality which is not expressed in hyper masculine terms. They support effeminate gay men only if they are part of a parody or on a stage in a costume. They don't understand and are disgusted by transgender people. You either have a dick or you don't. There is no in between.

The fluid sexuality of the mass of gay culture and it's effect on creating a more open and receptive gay man which began in the 60's, exploded in the 70's and shrank back in terror in the 80's when the Plague descended has become a tiny blip of a fading star against the black canvas of all gay culture.

Quentin, weather he intended too or not, set out to bring this fading star out of obscurity and bring it to light. It was his insight into the act of being a fully open and aware and receptive GAY MAN with a GAY STYLE and FLUIDITY which attracted me in the late 80's like a gay, fluttering moth to a mother shining ship and why I went to see Resident Alien when it opened in 1990.

Mr. Crisp was to be at the screening. I desperately wanted to meet him. I had bought a flimsy poster of the movie the day before and was hoping he'd humor me and sign it. I carried it with me to the film and afterwards, approached him at a tiny table set out next to the screening.

Mr. Crisp wore a striking blue velvet blazer with a bright red scarf about his neck. He had on blush and a thin line of pink lipstick. Blue eyeshadow graced his eyelids and his hands were covered in various rings of deep green and purple. His infamous grey hair was swept up into a giant cone on his head and was streaked on one side with purple dye.

I was in love.

He smiled at me as I came up to him. I had worn my favorite crushed red jacket and tight black pants. I had my green sneakers on and had applied a thin line of mascara to my eyes. I handed him the movie poster. He took it and looked it over.

This is what it was:

"I look hideous", he said to me as he raised a black marker in his hand. I smiled at him and touched his hand as I said, "Not to me you don't."

He shook his head but didn't move his hand away from mine. "I'm constantly amazed by people, I truly am."

With his free hand he signed the poster To a clearly divine and inspired man, Quentin Crisp.

He rolled up the poster and handed it to me. I thanked him and held his eyes as I left. He stared at me as I walked away and in his eyes I saw such life and beauty it took my breath away. I will never forget that moment.

My friend Kim Jackson has asked me to write a show which I am to perform at The Duplex on Christopher Street in the West Village section of Manhattan. I'm not sure what Kim will get out of this since it will be so gay in content. I think she's doing this because she loves me and is desperately hoping this will shine some light on my withered creative life. I am a tad concerned for our friendship in the collaboration, so I must be frank with her on my concerns.

The Duplex is a hop, skip and a jump from the infamous Stonewall Tavern where many believe the gay movement in America truly began. It's not where it began, but it is where the gay movement became visible to people who lived in South Dakota and Florida.

I have agreed to do the show. I am going to draw on the inspiration of Quentin Crisp. Of Harvey Fierstein and his early plays. I am going to press my hand to my heart and my ear to the ground and listen to the words of Larry Kramer. I am going to ask for those gay men of the past to inspire me to write a show about the truth of my life as a gay man who has spent over half of his life living on the fringes of gay life and has watched his brethren fall apart and fractured.

The gay heart of our day is gone. It needs to be revived and I, for one, am going to create a show with this in mind.

As a small boy, I dreamed of living in New York City and creating theater that would be about being a gay man in the dirtiest and most amazing city on the planet. I have to live out that dream.

The cooking show was an excuse to perform and I see that now. I love to cook, don't get me wrong, but the thing I'm truly meant to do is perform. And since for now TV does not want me and the writing world doesn't know I exist, I shall perform in the theater. Lords knows this will a labor of love. But I know not what else to do, so here we go.

Maybe this time the Gods will shine down on me.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you are blogging again. Very interesting to read :) As always, I wish you the best...and, I think God is shining down on you....what his/her plans are I do not know....