Archive for May, 2012

May 28, 2012: Hands Off Cuba

     I don’t typically work closely with an artist during the installation of an exhibit. Artists have a lot of ideas about how their art should be shown, which I think is very nice for them.

     The Paul Wilson exhibit I’m working on this week (which features all-new work about Lee Harvey Oswald) is a very complicated one, and Paul has been around the gallery a lot, in part because I’m doing a lot of installations that require him to schlep props and art-pieces to the gallery.

     Here are five of the stranger things Paul said to me today while I was trying to install his show:

1. “Do you think you have enough ‘Hands Off Cuba’ flyers crumpled up on the floor here?”

2. “I may have to go buy another wig to make chest hair for Lee. This one I brought isn’t the right color.”

3. “These Pop Tarts you bought me are the wrong flavor.”

Paul Wilson, at work.

4. “I got into an argument last night with the lady from 3M. I called to complain about their double-stick tape, and she was rude to me.”

5. “Do you want the Lee Harvey Action Figures to be topless? Because I can remove their blouses.”

Thing I Hate Today: My inability to remember people’s names


May 27: My Date with the “Assassin”

Lee Harvey Oswald is coming.

I’ve been all day installing my next art exhibit at Willo North Gallery. It’s called Paul Wilson: My Life with Lee Harvey Oswald, and it’s a real trip-and-a-half.

The show opens this Friday, June 1. Take my word for it: This, you’ve got to see.

Thing I Hate Today: Cake is not health food


May 26, 2012: The Mangler

            When I was really small, my mother had an ironing machine. You put a pair of trousers into it, and it pressed them with steam and heat and pressure.

She called it The Mangler; I’m not sure why. Maybe it didn’t do a very good job of ironing, or maybe she was referring to the possibility that, if one wasn’t careful, the machine could suck you in and iron you. That sounds like something Mom might have warned against.

I did not buy this machine the other day.

The Mangler was fun to play inside of. When you lifted the machine’s giant lid, there was a big space underneath the ironing pulleys that, if you were three years old, you could tuck yourself into and pretend an evil witch had imprisoned you there, pending your being turned into a gingerbread boy and eaten.

What does it say about me that, when I walked into a junk shop the other day and saw a Mangler—first time I’d laid eyes on one in nearly 50 years—my immediate thought was, “I have to have that!”?

Thing I Hate Today: Babies in movie theaters

May 25, 2012: Cruel Fortune

“Curiosity is life.” What the hell does that even mean?

            There needs to be a city ordinance against fortune cookie fortunes that aren’t really fortunes.

            “Love the one you’re with” is not a fortune; it’s a command. “Your bright eyes see the world anew,” also isn’t a fortune. It’s an observation—and a clunkily-worded one, besides.

            Please, fortune-cookie-fortune authors. Pull your heads out of your asses and start telling me things like “You will live to see another thousand dawns.” Or “The phone bill will magically pay itself next month.” Or even “Something dreadful is about to happen!” Because at least that would be a for-Christ’s-sake fortune.

     “Life will continue to astonish you” is not fortune-telling; it’s implausible conjecture, at least when I’m the guy reading it. So knock it off, already, with the demands (“Make the most of all life’s pleasures.”) and the inaccurate assessments (“You surprise all around you with charming wit.”) Tell me about my future, or I’ll stop fucking reading you.

 Thing I Hate Today: Our cable box crashed

May 24, 2012: Gay Planner

I write everything down.

            The week before I install a new art exhibit is usually a little nuts. And if the artist falls behind, the days leading up to a new exhibition can be hellish.

            Paul Wilson, whose work I’ll be installing at Willo North Gallery next week, is ahead of schedule. He’s been a dream to work with, in fact—sending me updates every couple of days (“I’ve got the dang Boticelli homage done, and now I’m going to start on the Dada series…”) and just being generally pleasant to work with.

            The show opens on Friday, June 1. Here’s a sneak peek:

Lee Harvey Oswald as the Mona Lisa.

 Thing I Hate Today: Being awakened at 2 in the morning by a ringing phone

May 23, 2012: Drawing Room

I found this sketch, done on the back of the envelope from last month’s water bill, on Tevye’s desk today:


Thing I Hate Today: Not enough eternity

May 22, 2012: Then I Guess it is Wise to Be Cruel

Yes. I’m a bitch. So?

About six or seven years ago, Tevye’s cat, Kcub, died. I called our veterinarian and said, “Alma is lonely; will you help us find an abandoned kitten to adopt? I want a brown tabby that I can bottle feed.” I’d read that brown tabbies were the friendliest cats, and I’d bottle-fed my own cat, Roxymusic, an abandoned kitten I found in 1982, and we’d been especially close. Roxy lived to be 20 years old.

Our vet came up with a little brown-striped, three-week-old kitten that our mutual friend Cindy had found in a vacant lot over on Roosevelt Street. I named her Alfie, after my favorite song, and went out and bought a kitten-sized baby bottle and some formula, and got busy forcing this little animal to bond with me.

I carried her around with me all day, and bottle-fed her every couple of hours. I taught her to poop and to eat kibble and slept with her under my chin. Tevye decided to keep a distance, and rarely interacted with her. He thought this would help Alfie and me to establish some kind of special relationship.

It didn’t work. She hated me. To this day, if I try to pet her, she squirms away. If I persist, she bites me. Sometimes I catch her glaring at me.

Tevye says that it’s because Alma took Alfie aside, early on, and told her, “Listen, bitch. The one with the big nose is mine, so stay away from him.” Which—if it’s true—had to have been confusing to poor Alfie. I mean, I’ve got a honker, but have you seen Tevye’s?

Whatever. I’ve got the other two cats to hang out with. And sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, Alfie will come over and rub up against me.

Just once.

Thing I Hate Today: Trying to convince my father to wear his damn hearing aides

May 21, 2012: Revue Review

 I’ve fallen a week behind in my blogging, and I’m determined to get caught up, today. So, please excuse a little cheating from me–like this essay, which I’ve published a couple times before in other places.

I keep driving past a big billboard near my home touting the return of Dream a Little Dream: The Nearly True Story of the Mamas and the Papas, which is one of those jukebox musicals that aggrandizes a particular pop group with a “revue” of their songs.

I won’t be seeing this production. I swore off jukebox musicals a couple of years ago after being traumatized by I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett—a production bereft of torpedo bras and eye glitter but still one of the gayest shows I’ve ever witnessed. Its all-male, relentlessly snake-hipped cast sang beautifully the songs of Mr. Bennett and flirted like mad with the women in the front row, blowing them kisses and saying things like, “Darling, my number is 555-1212, call me!” although no one believed for a moment that any of these men meant anything other than “…so I can do your highlights and scold you about that nasty rayon blouse, Girlfriend,” because these boys were such obvious Nancys that even the old ladies in the audience were rolling their eyes at these “flirtations.”

No, it’s not the cast of that Tony Bennett revue. It’s Kajagoogoo.

Like so many of these jukebox tuners, the Tony Bennett homage merely trotted out his hits, one after the other, with all the flair of a picket line. It was padded with banter so idiotic, it would have to have been smartened up tenfold to qualify as just plain stupid. I decided that the folks who sell theater tickets are cranking out these 3-D greatest hits packages with such velocity that there’s no time for clever scripting, and I crossed them off my To Do list, for good.

These K-Tel compilations come to life aren’t only progressively more cheesy with each installment, they’re also devoting themselves to less worthy subjects each time out. In a world where the music of Barry Manilow is the basis for two separate musicals, a revue inspired by the cheerful tunes of Wang Chung can’t be long in coming.

How long before we’ll be asked to line up for tickets to a collection of tunes made famous by Hall and Oates, I wonder. I can almost hear the tympanic virtual orchestra rendition of “Maneater”; can fully imagine the audience participation number that will accompany “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” And you know there’ll be an interpretive dance of “Kiss On My List” involving tie-dyed toe shoes and requiring the patience of a Persian miniaturist to sit through.

Lest you think I’m merely riffing, consider this: in the last decade, theatergoers have been offered cabarets cobbled together from the work of ABBA, Carole King, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, and Queen. London’s West End was even host to an award-winning Madness musical called Our House. Madness! Indeed.

No musician, dead or alive, is safe. There’s Love, Janis, narrated by the wistful but still-stoned ghost of Ms. Joplin. And of course there was Jersey Boys, a Tony winner that canonized Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and has apparently docked for good inLas Vegas (where else?).

I am bitter, it’s true. Bitter and fearful—of the inevitable Bananarama musical; of opening the New York Times and seeing an ad for You Make Me Feel Like Dancin’: The Music of Leo Sayer or Too Shy! A Song Celebration of Kajagoogoo or Mm-Bop: The Hanson Songbook. Terrified of falling asleep and dreaming of Oh, Mickey!, a book musical about the misadventures of a saucy teenaged cheerleader set to the tunes of Toni Basil.

A different version of this essay was published by me in Phoenix New Times a couple of years ago, and later read by me on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

May 20, 2012: Emcee, Squared (Disgruntled Letter #2)

Dear Arizona Press Club,

Thank you for the swell award. It’s always nice to get together with my colleagues, once a year, to celebrate, commiserate, and catch up with one another at the Arizona Press Club Awards Dinner.

You know what wasn’t nice? David Fitzsimmons, that creepy asshole you hired to emcee the event this year. I hated him when you had him last year (or was it the year before? I’m trying desperately to forget ever having been in the same room with that horrible piece of shit); I hate him still.

And, no. I’m not angry because that turd made fun of the spelling of my first name when he announced that I’d won something. Trust me, I’ve heard that number every single day since 1971, and if it still bothered me I’d be in a padded cell by now. What I object to is the same thing I objected to last time this douchebag emceed: He was disrespectful. Also, he wasn’t funny or entertaining.

This man is an ass-hat.

But mostly, he was disrespectful. He made fun of the Navajo names and the harder-to-pronounce Hispanic names. He even made a retard joke—what kind of perverted cretin makes a retard joke in the 21stcentury?

Worse, that awful man you put up on the podium mocked the very product we were presumably there to celebrate: Journalism. Photo wins that depicted something unusual were groaned over; headlines with “funny” words in them were snickered at; subjects of the articles that won were greeting with eye-rolling. Even the judges’ descriptions of why the winners won weren’t safe (“It says here she can write anything—what a Type A loser!”).

Your friend rushed through the list of nominees, shouting them in a voice choked with sarcasm, making it clear that he thought the whole event was a colossal joke. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything more from the same heartless jack-off who made wisecracks on CNN about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the day she was gunned down in a Tucson parking lot.

This time, I’m not writing just to complain. I’m writing to offer my services as a member of your board of directors next year. Please, let me work on next year’s awards banquet. Journalism is in the toilet, and the last thing journalists need is to be told we’re losers and we suck—at our annual awards banquet, no less.


Robrt Pela (whose name, according to Fitzsimmons, “is the sound a cat makes when it’s throwing up”)

May 19, 2012: Children of the Cornball (Disgruntled Letter #1)

Dear Probably Well-Intentioned Drama School Teacher Who Directed the Miserable Kiddy Production of Annie I Witnessed Last Night:

You are doing absolutely no favors to the tiny would-be thespians of your dramatic school by neglecting to tell them that staring out into the audience throughout their “performances” is a bad idea.

I attended your production-only-a-mother-could-pretend-to-love because my 12-year-old friend Caitlyn had the lead, and I want my 90 minutes back. Since that’s an impossibility, I’d like instead for you to promise me that you will remember to tell future classes that this sort of line reading is not permissible when performing for an audience:

Child in dirndl and vinyl wig: “Hey, Miss Hannigan! (glancing nervously into audience, hunting for parents) Here comes Annie, and she has a dog and (turning to squint directly into the fourth row) a big bow in her hair!” (smiling at audience, waving)

 Also, please stay away from Caitlyn. She’s really talented, and it would be better for her (and for me, since I plan to attend future performances in which she appears) if she were allowed to remain so.

Robrt Pela

Look. There’s my dad in the third row.

Thing I Hate Today: Summer has returned