With “All-American Boy” Going Viral, Steve Grand Makes Appearance on “Good Morning America”

One week ago I posted a video by out artist Steve Grand.  Now his “All-American Boy” has become viral, nearing, at this writing, 700,000 hits on youtube.  Based on all this online play time, Grand appeared today on ABC’s “Good Morning America”.  Though short, his interview gives some insight into Grand’s coming out and his impetus for creating the song and video.

While this may be Grand’s breakthrough video, with a quick search on youtube, others by Grand can be found, some in conjunction with other performers and some under the name Steve Starchild.

If you’re interested in a longer read on Grand, check this out at Buzzfeed Music.

A LGBT Pride Month Story: And A Couple of T-Shirts That Were Saved from the Dumpster

This T-shirt from 1979 came from one of the dances put on by Gay Services of Kansas, at the University of Kansas.

Another hot Sunday is already upon us, and later on, when the driveway gets a bit shaded, I’ll tend to one of the planned weekend chores–washing the car.

The last time I was ready to do the same task, I pulled out a basket of car-cleaning supplies, which I had dumped under the work shelves in the garage when I was moving into my house, a year and a half ago.  In the basket, I discovered three old T-shirts, which I had saved for many

T-shirt from The Hide & Seek Complex in Colorado Springs, Colorado--a souvenir from New Year's Eve 1979.

years for sentimental reasons in the bottom of a chest of drawers.  But like many items whose value changes when a person is making a move, these once nostalgia-filled keepsakes were turned into rags.

The funny thing is that afternoon, I did wash the car with them, even the grimy wheels.  But as I finished my task, and the car was looking all slick again, I decided that these shirts still meant something to me; I wasn’t ready to toss them all wet into the trash dumpster.

One of them–a bright red one–is a souvenir from a trip in 2000 to Chile.  It’s from the Capel Pisco Distillery in the Elquí Valley.  You haven’t lived if you’ve never had a Pisco Sour!

The other two–one black, the other, now a dingy white–are much older.  Unfortunately, the sleeves are cut off and long slits run down the sides, which was part of the look in the early 80s to go with the two pairs of parachute pants that I had.  With a red pair and a black pair teamed up with the slitted shirts, I had four different options to choose from to go out clubbing!

Actually, I had gotten the T-shirts when I still lived in Kansas, so it was probably about three years before I dismembered the sleeves here in Houston.

I got both of the shirts when I was a grad student at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Read more about that here.)  One of them is from one of the dances that the KU gay group used to have in the Student Union.  A bunch of us from K-State would pack ourselves into cars and make the 90-minute drive (more if there were pit stops) from Manhattan to Lawrence.  Though there was a lot of KU-K-State rivalry on the football field and basketball court, the boys and girls didn’t have any time for that on the dance floor!  This shirt came from the 1st Annual Summer Fling, put on by the KU group, Gay Services of Kansas, in 1979.  The KU-Lawrence LGBT community has done a good job of chronicling its history, part of which can be found here, where I verified that my shirt was from 1979.

The other T-shirt is a memento from a road trip I took with a K-State friend to Colorado Springs over the holidays of that same year.  We spent New Year’s Eve at a place called The Hide & Seek Complex, which was the biggest club I had been to up to then.  I don’t remember so much about the physical features of the disco, but I do remember the fantastic pyrotechnic show that shimmered down from the top of Pikes Peak, which we viewed from the patio of the club.  (The Hide & Seek Complex lasted for many years.  From what I can see, it must have closed about eight years ago.)

I also remember meeting many military guys from Fort Carson and a couple from the Air Force Academy itself that New Year’s Eve at that club in Colorado Springs.  Even though it was just a few short years since I had been in the Air Force myself,  I remember thinking, “Oh, if I only knew then, what I know now.” 

Actually, I had a much better situation for coming out, surrounded by college friends, who were basically doing the same thing.  We could, for the most part, enjoy the process with a lot of support from each other, not a situation I could have had in the military.

I guess that’s why I can’t use these T-shirts for car washing; the significance that they have is just too much.  And rather than shove them back in a drawer, I have a room with a lot of my keepsakes on the walls.  Put in frames, they’d go perfect there.

I Want My Gay TV (and I Want My Damn Computer To Work Right)

The sun came out today.  I’m not sure when because I was tied up inside (not literally, mind you) most of the day, but I felt almost gleeful turning down the visors in the car on my way home this evening.  The rain has been good for the garden, and hopefully, some of it is getting down for some of those deep tree roots that must have been needing it after the long dry spell in the fall.

With the cloudless sky and the days getting just a bit longer, this was the first evening that Annie and I got to make the rounds and back home again before it was completely dark.  Walking a dog when it’s already dark is just that–walking a dog.  But when there’s still some daylight, there a chance to take a look at what’s growing, or not, in people’s yards, and maybe even say “hello” to a neighbor that’s also outside.

Speaking of “gleeful” (I think that word is coming back), Tuesday is my night to watch Glee, so it was a bit disappointing to find out that tonight’s wasn’t a new episode.  Still it was a good re-run, with Kurt’s bully getting kicked out of school and all the underlying weirdness going on because the bully had kissed him.  Then there was Kurt’s dad’s wedding with all the guy-guy dance preparations and actual wedding dancing. 

Last night was 90210 night.  This second rendition seems much lighter on storyline than the previous 90210 of a number of years back.  But Teddy, the rich boy tennis player-slash-surfer, is coming out, and even though we only get a couple minutes of that–if any–per show, we’ve gotten to see him put the lip-lock on cute-boy Ian, who is already out.  And last night’s episode was a new one, with lots of teasing the viewers about who will be involved with whom during the rest of the season.

I don’t want to lament about the past.  But I wouldn’t have minded growing up and being able to watch shows like these.  The best that I could do when I was in high school was The Monkees and Flipper, and you can bet I wasn’t watching that last one just to see the damn dolphin.

I know I paid that bill!

Just as a side note–if it’s even that–my DSL has been so crappy the last couple of days.  It was getting worse than early dial-up.  I was thinking that all the rain had affected some lines somewhere.  Good grief, don’t we just panic when our computer is out-of-whack for even a little bit?  Last night I just gave up; everything was so slow, but tonight I decided to call AT&T.

Well, don’t ya know it.  I had barely started playing with the recorded message man, when he gave me the suggestion that I needed:  disconnect the modem for it to reset.  That and a restart of the computer and voilà!  Here we are, almost like the sunshine after too many wet, cloudy days.

“For Colored Girls” and H.A.R.C.–You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country But . . .

Program cover for the production of "For Colored Girls" given at the Purple Masque Theatre at Kansas State University in early spring of 1979.

A recent revelation about how much money the Knights of Columbus had given NOM (the anti-gay group that spends millions to fight against same-sex marriage, but goes to court trying to avoid telling where it gets its money) helped bring back some memories of my coming out days at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Yes, you New Yorkers, there is another Manhattan, and Dorothy actually lived there, a number of them, in fact!)

After I got out of the Air Force (read about Greece and the 6916th here and here), I spent three years working in northwest Kansas and lived in a town of about 200 people, and back in those days, when Bachman-Turner Overdrive was cranking on the radio, it wasn’t exactly the environment for a guy still trying to figure himself out.

Even though I loved the people out there in the sticks in Sheridan and Thomas counties, you know what they say about the lure of the bright lights.  Those lights were a couple hundred long miles down I-70 in Manhattan, Kansas, where I started graduate work in theatre.  I had this idea that I was going back to school to become an actor, but looking back on it, unwittingly, I was looking for a place comfortable enough to find “me”.

And it didn’t take long to find that place.  I was barely starting classes when I got cast as Dr. Rank in the KSU production of  Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and about the same time, a guy in one of my classes invited me to a party, and “that,” as we say, “was that.”

I appeared in and worked on a lot of theatre and other productions during my time at K-State.  I also found a group of gay “brothers and sisters” and a camraderie and connection within both groups (and, yes, there was a lot of overlap there) that was something very special.  I know a lot of it was that most of us came from small rural towns, and for the first time, were finding others like ourselves.  Too, it was our time.  Stonewall had taken place in New York City in 1969, and by the late 70s, even out in the middle of the Great Plains, there was a sense that it was OK to be gay.  (Somehow, you’d think it’d be a lot better these 30-odd years later.)  Kansas City had a great disco station, which we could sometimes pick up.  I remember listening to it all the way in, to be part of KC’s first, I think, gay pride parade.  (Sorry, for all the “I thinking”.  Some stuff needs to be written down before it fades.)

One of many “new” experiences for me at K-State was doing the make-up for the ballet and opera performances.  As part of my other theatre coursework, I took a couple of stage make-up courses, and found I was pretty good at it.  The drama department was going to do a production of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” in the Purple Masque Theatre, which along with most of the speech and drama department was housed under the east side of the old stadium on campus.  I was selected to do the make-up for the show, and the apprehension on those seven African-American young women, who were portraying the Lady in Red, Lady in Blue, and ladies in several other colors, was quite apparent when this white guy showed up in the dressing room for one of the final rehearsals, when costumes and makeup were worn for the first time.  We all got over the initial awkwardness, and for me, being part of that show was another big part of the changes that were happening in my life at the time.

(I’m anxious to see Tyler Perry’s movie adaption from what was a relatively short stage production.   I just looked up the trailer, and it jogged my memory.)

Back on the social front, through my friend from class, I started meeting a lot of other people.  One of the reasons I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile is to write about the gay organization that we had.  Some of these things need to be recorded just for history’s sake.  In those days in Kansas, about the only formally organized gay groups were  connected to the universities.  KU, always being a liberal haven, in a conservative state, had a group, but I don’t remember the name.  They sometimes held dances in their student union, and people would drive to Lawrence from all over the state.

The group we had in Manhattan was not just a campus organization; though, we did have some meetings on campus.  It was called H.A.R.C.–Homosexual Alliance of Riley County, and we had members from the university, including a couple of the faculty, townspeople, and some from out of town, even here and there, a soldier from nearby Ft. Riley.  Yes, that was way before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  We often had our meetings in the back dining room of Sambo’s Restaurant (yes, that one), where several of our members were part of the staff.

One of our hangouts was a deli in Aggieville called “Say Cheese”, which was owned by a lesbian couple, who mothered some of us guys, often feeding us for helping out a bit around the store.

Like other groups, we had volunteer projects.  We helped refurbish some of the exhibits at the Manhattan Zoo.  One time we worked on the cage that held the wildcat, the K-State mascot, and there was a mini-brouhaha.

At our on-campus meetings, we were sometimes confronted by the reality of how some gay people had been “treated” just a few years before.  Oftentimes in attendance was a guy, whose name I don’t remember, maybe in his 30s, wearing an odd mix of clothes–women’s sweaters are what I remember most, the collarless ones, that have a head opening from shoulder to shoulder.  But he really wasn’t transgender or a crossdresser.  He talked out of turn and off-topic.  He wasn’t a student, and he must have walked to the meetings because I doubt if he could drive.  After we found out that his mother had sent him to Topeka–several mental hospitals there–because he was gay, and that he’d been given a lobotomy to try to cure him, it was a lot easier to deal with his odd behavior.  To this day, we still have people damaging perfectly good human beings because they think being gay is an illness.

Miss Tammy Whynot at HARC's "Evening in Paris" at the Manhattan Knights of Columbus Hall (circa 1979)

That brings me back to NOM and the Knights of Columbus.  In Manhattan, the Knights of Columbus Hall was across the river from the main part of town and could be rented for events.  At that time, the manager was friendly with our group–some said he was bi–and we started having dances there.  If I remember right, we had three dances while I was in Manhattan.  For us, they were the proms that we would have had in high school if we hadn’t all had to act like straight boys.  We hired DJs, put up decorations, and had some crazy times.  I know I did.

I doubt that the Knights of Columbus members knew who paid to rent the building on those evenings.  Maybe the manager even pocketed it.  Who knows.

I hope if anyone who reads this has any more details about H.A.R.C., they will comment.  It’s part of our history, and if it doesn’t get written down, it will be lost.  I’ve done some searching but have found no mention anywhere.

McDonald’s: I’m Lovin’ It

I saw the video of this French McDonald’s ad more than a week ago, but, alas, my French goes no further than oui oui and silver plate. Now with the subtitles, I find that it’s a mini-French film all of its own.  Were they to do one like it here, the evengenitals and Focus on the Family would be crying for a boycott of Mickey D’s.  It’s time to give the French credit for more than the fries!

Bill Konigsberg’s Gay Teen Read “Out of the Pocket” Scores a 3-Point Field Goal, Not a Touchdown

Out of the Pocket CoverOut of the Pocket
Bill Konigsberg
Dutton Books (Hardback)
 
ISBN-13-9780525479963

three star-rating


A couple of months ago when the Lambda Literary Foundation’s 21st list of awarded gay books came out, I promised to read some of them and post my personal reviews.

I found one from the LGBT Childrens/Young Adult top picks at my nearby Barnes and Noble: Out of the Pocket by sports writer Bill Konigsberg. I immediately read it, and forgot about it.

Since then, I’ve read and been reading on several other books and posted reviews of a couple of them. Then a couple of days ago, I saw a new posting of the Lambda book list and realized that Konigsberg’s novel had been the top choice in the LGBT Childrens/Young Adult category, and I thought to myself, “I’ve read that book and got it somewhere.” I looked a bit and thought maybe I was mistaken about having read it; then while uncovering a pile of papers on top of my printer, I found it.

Last night, I re-read it, and now wonder why it is the top selection in its category. I must admit, though, I haven’t read the other contenders yet.

What Konigsberg has written (and maybe this is why the book has been ranked 1st) is a “safe” book. The theme is not a new one: it’s the coming out story of a high school guy; in this case, though, it’s the story of a star quarterback of a highly rated football team being somewhat pushed out of the closet.

Konigsberg’s writing is smooth and suits the storyline of his jock main character, Bobby Framington. But whether it was part of the writer’s intent or not, I felt little empathy for Bobby because Bobby shows very little empathy for others. This jock is part of the top click that many high schools have. He and his “sort of” girlfriend have an on-going role-play, in which she is “Annette” and he is “Biff”. In a lot of ways, though, Bobby is a “Biff”; he lives a comfortable life, has party-boy football jock friends, and is supported by school mentors before and throughout his coming out.

Actually, his nemesis, the high school news reporter who outs Bobby, comes across as a more honest and real character, one some readers will identify with in this dialogue:

Finch shrugged. “You jocks have no idea what it’s like to have a bad time.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at him.
“Bobby, everyone likes you. You think being gay will stop people from liking you? I bet it didn’t. I wrote that article, and for like a day, people came up to me and made me feel like I was something. Then it was over. It was like I didn’t write it at all.”
The laugh came from deep in my gut. “Poor Finch,” I said. “That must be hard for you not being popular.”

It’s clear that Bobby is one of the popular kids, and even though after his outing, a couple of gay students from outside his group try to make a connection, Bobby seems not to really identify with them. Konigsberg’s story would have had a greater appeal had it taken chances with characters outside of Bobby’s “safe” world.

I’m not sure what Konigsberg’s real purpose was in writing this book. On one hand, because of the click in which he has placed his main character, I don’t see that a lot of gay kids who are struggling with their own coming out, especially with the pressures from both inside and out of school, will find someone to identify with. I guess there may be some comfort and guidance for some young gay athletes who might be trying to figure out what coming out might be like, but the fact that Bobby comes out “OK” with every difficulty he encounters will be hard for many young readers’ (athletes or not) to believe.

Despite the story’s problems, I’m sure that school librarians across the country will be able to “stay in the pocket” with this book, because it’s a “safe” gay book for teens. The most intimate the story gets is a kiss, and yes, that’s one kiss, and even though Bobby manages to get a boyfriend almost before he has come out, the relationship seems much more like a friendship than romance.

When it comes to teen coming out stories that deal with sports, for my two cents, these books are better reads:

  • Rainbow Boys (and the other books in the series)–by Alex Sanchez (basketball and swimming)
  • Pins–by Jim Provenzano (wrestling)
  • Clay’s Way–by Blair Mastbaum (surfing)

“Stumblin'” into Memories of Neil Young via Austrialia; What IS Matthew Mitcham Up To These Days? And ‘Faker’–Nothin’ Fake about It

One of the first “real” albums that I ever had (not cassette) was Neil Young’s Harvest, and I’d play “Heart of Gold” countless times on end. By chance, this morning, I found a cover of that song done by Australian Lior and Canadian Serena Ryder. It’s a rendition that will give a shiver to any Neil Young or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young fan.

I stumbled upon a little bit about Lior, who is an Israeli-born, Australian singer-songwriter, who seems to play mostly in concert, so there are not a lot of videos that are not just from concert takes. One, “Superficial”, which is what I’d call more “Indie” type, I like a lot, so I put in my Vid Box, which you can click into on the right. It’s not an “official” vid but it’s pretty cool, nonetheless. If you want more of Lior’s stuff, check out his “Burst Your Bubble”, which you can find on youtube and also myspace.

I say “stumbles” because I was looking to see what has been happening with our Australian diving guy, Matthew Mitcham. At the moment, he is competing the FINA Diving World Series; the most recent leg of this competition was held at Pond’s Forge, Sheffield, English, where Mitcham placed fourth in what appears to have been an event loaded with the world’s best divers.

Nathan Hudson, lead singer of Faker

Nathan Hudson, lead singer of Faker

Another of this morning’s “stumbles” landed upon the Australian band, Faker, who for a better description, I’d call “the 80s done up in an ’09 ‘do'”. Check out a couple versions of “This Heart Attack” on my Vid Box; the Miami Horror Remix is definitely worth a couple of listens. Also check out Faker’s myspace page. And yes, Faker’s lead singer, Nathan Hudson, is another gay Australian who came out about a year ago.

As I said in a previous post, if I were back in high school, I’d have Matthew Mitcham’s pic slapped somewhere inside my locker; I’d also go out and buy some of Faker’s music (latest album is Be the Twilight), but, hey! maybe I’ll go to that today–and I’ve been out of high school along time.

Steve Kluger’s Teen Novel “My Most Excellent Year” May Need a Spoonful of “Reality” To Go with the Sugar-coating

excellent-yearMy Most Excellent Year–A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park
Steve Kluger
Dial Books (Hardback), Penguin (Paperback)
ISBN-13-9780803732278

0185d371410f29521


Last night I finished Steve Kluger’s novel, My Most Excellent Year–A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park. Since I have set out to review some of the books I am reading, this morning I’ll have at it before I forgot too much to be able to write about it.

The title extension, “A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park” gives the reader some definite clues about what might be found in this fanciful story, and “fanciful” this novel is indeed. The plot centers on the closely interwoven lives of three high school freshmen: T.C., a Red Sox-loving, future politician; Augie, a soccer-playing, musical showman, sparkling in his own gay self-awareness; and Alejandra, a hob-nobbing diplomat’s daughter, soon-to-be stage ingenue.

Kluger creates the storyline of these teenagers by devoting each consecutive chapter to the point of view of one of the main character’s in a variety of narrative means: essays for class, emails, and text messages. This unusual style takes a bit of getting used to, but Kluger manages to keep the story smooth and cohesive throughout.

I keep coming back to the idea of “fanciful”; there’s no better way to describe this story. These three 15-year-olds lead such active lives that not even the most adept soccer mom could keep up: they play sports, create and perform elaborate shows, excel in school, and even have time to bring a deaf orphan into their lives. Moreover, if some problem does come into their idyllic lives, one way or another it’s solved, faster than Proactiv on a Jessica Simpson pimple!

This book has been out for more than a year (March 2008), so I wondered what other reviews might say; everything I’ve read so far is glowing. Powells.com says this: “Steve Kluger is an acclaimed author of novels for adults, and this is his first crack at writing for teens. And in case you were wondering, he totally nails it.”

When I went to Kluger’s own website, I realized I had read a couple of his books before; I don’t remember much about them, though.

The big question in my mind is really, “Who was Kluger’s audience when he wrote this book?” Powell’s thinks he “totally nails it.” For teen readers, I’m not so sure. This book is replete with references to show biz, political, and sports notables, mostly of the 60s, 70s, and 80s–Liza Minelli and Julie Andrews, Jacqueline Kennedy and JFK, Bucky Dent–not the most common figures these days.

Language-wise, My Most Excellent Year–A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park is written for young readers (I found it in the Juvenile Literature section of the library). There is no strong language and the most intimacy between the characters is hand-holding and a couple of kisses. I suppose someone might get upset that one of the kisses is between two teenage boys.

But once again who is this book written for? There’s not enough sports competition for teenagers into sports to be really pulled into it. Aside from at one point, when Augie’s boyfriend wants him to act more masculine, his sexuality is fully accepted by everyone– his parents, teachers, and classmates, and after he realizes that he is gay–by he himself. There are several romantic relationships that do keep the story moving and cohesive, but once again, this story is so “fanciful” (and predictable) that the outcome of each is a foregone conclusion.

This is not a book that is going to assuage the bullying that some gay kid is getting in school, and this is not the book that is going to give a kid some glimpse of how to deal with un-accepting parents and friends.

However, this may be the “fanciful” book that allows that same kid a way to escape from some of his own “reality” for a few hours.

But with all of the historical references that are part of it, though, I’d say this novel was more likely written by Steve Kluger for Steve Kluger.

Eight Seconds by Jean Ferris: Book Review

eight-seconds2EIGHT SECONDS
Jean Ferris
Harcourt Brace
Young Adult
ISBN: 0152023674

0185d371410f29521


Just like movie trailers, some book reviews give more information than I need, especially if they are not that long and involved. I would prefer that the review entice me rather than give too much information and spoil the story.

Let’s say this about Eight Seconds: the story is one of those that keeps the reader intrigued throughout the entire story. Of course, it’s aimed at the teenage reader, and obviously, being reviewed here, it has a running gay theme, but I’d actually call it gay “light”.

The story centers on John, a guy’s guy, growing up on a working ranch, who is learning to be a rodeo cowboy. Underlying the main storyline of a teenage boy growing up on a his parents’ Rocky Mountain ranch is John’s own journey of self-discovery.

Teenagers, whether gay, straight, or uncertain are going to relate to John’s own experience in figuring out who he is. Although the book’s central character is an 18-year-old guy, girls too will be pulled into the story’s constantly changing (and realistic) relationships. Librarians and parents should not have any problems with their kids even as young as 11 or 12 reading Eight Seconds (unless they are completely hostile towards the topic of homosexuality) because the text contains no strong language nor any type of direct sexual activity.

John’s sense of “innocent self-discovery” during his late teens is one of the most attractive elements to this story as compared with other similar “coming out” novels, which frequently revolve around teens in a school environment and the difficulties they encounter. This particular “slower” coming out process will be one that many readers will be able to relate to. Another positive aspect of this novel is that while we are able to empathize with John through his personal evolution, we also see other characters in the story at varying levels of acceptance of homosexuality.

If you are interested in reading Eight Seconds, check your local library, your local bookstore, or order it on line.

You can find out more about the author Jean Ferris at her website.