He Found Out my Secret - (Ep. 119: Matchgame & Press Your Luck)

This Week's Guest: Mandel Ilagen

This week's guest is Mandel Ilagen, but it's not the first time his name's come up on the show. He's a ringleader of a group of gays who are obsessed with game shows -- you might remember past guests Louis Virtel and Randy West describing Mandel's house parties that are like TV show tapings mixed with cocktails and queens. Game shows might seem like frivolous entertainment, but for Mandel and many of his friends, they provided a way to prove themselves amongst their peers -- and, for the first time in their lives, have fun doing it.

This Week's Recommendation: Ferdinand the Bull

For my recommendation this week, take a look at the children's book The Story of Ferdinand. This was a pivotal text for me as a child, and after reviewing it for this week's episode, I found that it still is. It's the story of a gentle bull who prefers smelling flowers over fighting, and what happens he must confront the world's expectations about who he's supposed to be.

Looking back on this book, I wonder just how much it shaped my sense of right and wrong to this day. I know that I read it a lot as a child. It is a truly beautiful work that has filled me with joy since before I could read -- in part because the telling of the tale is as gentle as the main character. There's no judgement, no mockery, and no tragic end for the bull who just wants to live life on his own terms.

Ultimately, the story leaves Ferdinand in a place of incredible bliss: not having proven himself, and yet still completely satisfied -- because his failure to measure of up other people's expectations is their problem, not his.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Roll Yourself in Glitter - (Ep. 118: Justin Sayre)

This Week's Guest: Justin Sayre

My guest this week is Justin Sayre, whom you may know from the excellent Sparkle and Circulate podcast, or his delightful live show The Meeting of the International Order of the Sodomites. He always knew there was a big queer community out there, but he never quite felt a connection with it, so he decided to do something about that: by appointing himself its chairman.

This Week's Recommendation: Mae West in Myra Breckinridge

For my recommendation this week, I want you to take a look at a film that does everything it can to defy description -- Myra Breckinridge. And specifically, look up the YouTube video that's just excerpts of scenes with Mae West.

The movie was made in 1968, and it's a weird sloppy mess of a story that's pulled in all different directions by all different ideas. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's torturous, every now and then it's a little bit sexy. And never is it any better than when Mae West is on the screen.

By this point in her career, Mae is an undisputed master of feminine sexual glamour. The fact that she was 75 years old at the time doesn't matter at all, and it is with unbridled gusto that she delivers lines like "ah, the end of another busy day. I can't wait to get back to bed. And if that don't work I'll try sleep."

The rest of the film is a mixed bag at best -- it's a fumbling adaptation of a Gore Vidal novel by a creative team that lacks the sophistication to understand the queer source material. The result is a mess of ideas about masculinity, which on their own would simply be forgettable. But Mae West's campy vamping snatches defeat from the jaws of defeat, not quite redeeming the film or rescuing it from its downward spiral, but at least transforming it into a joy to watch on its day down.

Clips of Stuff we Talked About

 

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

I Was a Teenage Theater Tyrant (Ep. 117 - Pee-wee Herman)

This Week's Guest: Tom Lenk

Have you ever proved yourself wrong? My guest this week is actor Tom Lenk, who appeared as Andrew on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tom was convinced for years that he lacked the skills that seemed to come naturally to other actors -- and so he was terrified when cast in a show that demanded more of him than he thought he could deliver. Facing that challenge changed the course of his career -- thanks in part to confidence he absorbed at an early age from the most beautiful woman in Puppetland.

By the way, Tom's the subject of a new documentary coming out this month called Nerdgasm. The film follows his quest to stage a show in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it's available to watch on Amazon starting June 16th. 

And the Sewers of Paris is independent and ad free thanks to the support of listeners. If you're enjoying the show, head over to SewersOfParis.com and click "Support the Show on Patreon" to help keep the show going for as little as a dollar per episode.

And one more note -- I'm going to be at the Lyst Symposium in Copenhagen this coming weekend, from June 9th to June 11th, presenting a talk about queer sex, love, and relationships in games. If you're in Copenhagen, come check it out, or follow along with my travels on twitter @mattbaume. I'll be visiting several European cities all throughout this summer to report on international LGBT issues -- and hopefully, to visit the actual Sewers of Paris.

This Week's Recommendation: Pee-Wee's Big Holiday

Thanks again to Tom for joining me, and head over to TomLenk.com to check out his work -- including the documentary Nerdgasm, available June 16. The doc's about what happens when you push through self-doubt and believe in your own abilities, and for my recommendation this week, I hope you'll watch another another movie about queer self-confidence: the Netflix special Pee Wee's Big Holiday. 

Now I am not a big believer in nostalgia reboots, which are almost always unable to live up to the unreliable memories of the original. But somehow Pee Wee's Big Holiday is a bundle of unmitigated charm and delight, just like Pee Wee himself.

The film is centered around friendship, and the lengths to which we're driven by feelings of affection. Pee Wee plays a small-town boy who's never vacationed far from home. But when he meet a famous hunky actor named Joe, he takes the plunge and goes on an epic journey to New York for Joe's birthday party.

The story tingles with queerness throughout, from the breathless interest of the male leads to the suggestive insertion of a fist in a friendship bracelet. But what makes it so joyful to me is Pee Wee's confidence, self-assuredness, and comfort in his own weird skin.

He is, to be clear, a very strange boy. And at no point does it even seem possible to imagine him being anything else. Even when he's in trouble and things aren't going his way, he is unswervingly himself -- giddy, curious, playful, and sincere.

And so are the heroes he encounters, from hairdressers to bank robbers to an odd heiress. Each one is a strange, happy caricature; each one unabashedly eccentric; each one -- as we all should aspire to be -- a Pee Wee in their own big holiday.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About

Music

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/