We Just Kept Secrets (Ep. 181 - What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)

This Week's Guest: J. Ronald M. York

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I want to let you know that this week's episode addresses some upsetting topics. It wasn't until his parents died that J. Ronald M. York learned about accusations of childhood sexual abuse in his family. Letters in a box in his father's garage finally revealed the terrible secrets that his family had kept from him his entire adult life. And in turn, that started his process for dealing with the secrets of his own abuse that he'd been carrying for years.

These are hard things to talk about -- but they're important to acknowledge and address. If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, or connect with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at RAINN.org.

This Week's Recommendation: Cameron Esposito's "Rape Jokes"

Thanks again to Ronald for joining me and for speaking so openly about something so difficult. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to talk about experiences like his, to say nothing of the pain of carrying those experiences as a secret. But I hope that hearing about what he's been through is helpful for other people carrying similar burdens. 

And for another take on surviving sexual assault, take a look at Cameron Esposito's new stand-up comedy special, entitled simply "Rape Jokes." It's a title that doesn't mince words about what to expect: a challenging and also, importantly, hilarious exploration about sexual assault.

Cameron is herself a survivor, and her perspective is absolutely vital. It's an experience like nothing I've ever seen, swerving simultaneously through jokes and pain and laughter and anger and compassion. The entire special is available to watch online at cameronesposito.com, and there's a "Donate" button in the upper left to benefit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Go, watch, give.

For something with so blunt a title, "Rape Jokes" is an amazing feat of comic finesse, or generosity, and compassion.

Stuff we Talked About

I Finally Felt Like I Made It (Ep. 180 - Andrew Lloyd Weber)

This Week's Guest: Jonathan D. Lovitz

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What role does confidence play in reaching your goals -- is confidence as important as skill, or more, or less? My guest this week is Jonathan Lovitz, senior vice president at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Before he stepped into that role, Jonathan enjoyed a successful acting career on stage an screen. But then he found his enthusiasm turning to LGBTQ advocacy, and now speaks out to improve economic opportunity for queer people. An funnily enough, in both roles, a lot of success comes down to the confidence people allow themselves to have in themselves.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice.

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. I want to hear about the books, movies, music, and games that you and your fellow Sewers listeners are obsessed with. The livestream is on Saturday, July 21st at 2pm pacific.

Also! If you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer Dungeons & Dragons adventure full of action and suspense and shady banter. Season 1 just launched -- head over to QueensOfAdventure.com to subscribe.

This Week's Recommendation: Assassins

He mentioned wanting to play the role of the Balladeer in the show Assassins, so for my recommendation this week, you might want to check out a performance from the revival at the 2004 Tony Awards, available with an easy YouTube search.

I say "might" because it is an upsetting song in an upsetting show. Standing on stage, we see presidential assassins from throughout history, holding tight to their guns and singing about how they're all entitled to dreams. They're alarming, sinister, urgent dreams. All that death and disillusionment exacts a heavy toll on an audience.

There's also a lot of relevance to extract from the show, much of it in the eye of the beholder. To me, the show is about the dark side of ambition, a cautionary tale about confidence. Yes, of course, by all means believe in yourself. The funny thing about beliefs, of course, is that they are often wrong.

But that wrongness is a double-edged sword. As crushing as it can be that  confidence can be misplaced, so too can self-deprecation. If one were to search inside Assassins for any sign of optimism -- and it would be a lengthy, difficult search yielding just scraps of evidence -- the silver lining might be that our own inner assassins, the ones who steadfastly believe in our own failure, might be the one who's misguided.

Stuff We Talked About

Gunshots in the Night (Ep. 179 - Kingdom Hearts)

Bonus Episode Guest: KaiKai Bee Michaels

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How do kids learn to be people when the adults in their lives aren't teaching them? Kai's parents weren't always there to give her the guidance she needed, and so she was forced to fend for herself. That meant learning basic life skills on her own, but also how to function around other people -- and how to take care of herself during a period of homelessness, moving across the country, and starting fresh with a day job in education and a nighttime gig in drag shows.

By the way, Kai is one of the San Francisco performers in our upcoming lives show, Queens of Adventure, where drag performers play a game of Dungeons & Dragons for a live audience! Kai plays a high elf Wizard with a magic owl. You can see her onstage along with Erika Klash, Pollo Del Mar, Kitty Powers, and Rock M. Sakura in two brand new adventures on July 13 and 14 at Oasis in San Francisco. Tickets are available now at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Justin Saint Cosplay

Thanks again to Kai for joining me -- look for KaiKai Bee Michaels on Twitter and Instagram to follow her cosplay and performances. And if you're in San Francisco, you can see her in Queens of Adventure, our live show featuring drag queens playing a D&D adventure, on July 13 and 14! Tickets are now on sale at QueensOfAdvenuture.com

We talked a bit about cosplay on this episode -- that's the craft of making costumes based on your favorite game or comic or cartoon characters. And for my recommendation this week, I suggest you go follow one of my favorite cosplayers in the world: the delightful Justin Saint (who you can also hear on Sewers of Paris episode 161.)

Justin's cosplay is nothing short of stunning. You might've seen a Maleficent look that's particularly beautiful, but there's also a Stevonnie from Steven Universe that is sheer perfection. Linda Belcher, Ariel, Korra, Padme, the looks are all exquisite, and you can find them by searching Instagram for gaymerqueen, that's gaymer with a Y.

Part of the loveliness of cosplay is when you share someone's enthusiasm for a character or a show. But I think I actually like it more when I DON'T recognize whoever they're cosplaying as. It's a signal that, hey, there's something out there that's so good people are willing to transform themselves to embody it. It's the strongest possible recommendation to check out something new and exciting. And it means that the next time you see that cosplayer, there's a chance you'll be able to geek out together over the new favorite they helped you find.

Stuff We Talked About