Nothing Went Fine (Ep. 144 - Les Miserables)

This Week's Guest: Michael Blutrich

According to the FBI, my guest this week was involved in one of the largest fraud schemes in history -- the nearly half-billion dollar failure of the National Heritage Life Insurance Company, which had 26,000 elderly policyholders. While Michael Blutrich was involved in the insurance scheme, he was also running a strip club called Scores that had mafia ties, and he secretly recorded conversations that helped the government convict numerous organized crime figures. Before his life took a turn towards crime, he was closeted, choosing to avoid the gay community during the AIDS crisis. Now after more than a decade behind bars, he's out of prison, out of the closet, and wondering if he has a place in society and in gay culture.

We'll have that conversation in just a moment. But first, a quick note: this show is supported by listeners who pledge a dollar or more per episode on Patreon. You might've heard that Patreon was planning to make some changes to the way that they process fees. But they've just announced that for now, those changes won't be happening. So, if you're a supporter, thanks for sticking with the show. Your pledge will continue to be exactly what it was before. The show is only possible because of that listener support -- huge thanks to this week's new and increasing donors, David, Michael, and Darren. If you'd like to join the folks who make The Sewers of Paris possible, head over to SewersOfParis.com and click Support the Show on Patreon.

This Week's Recommendation: Master of the House and Beggars at the Feast

For this week's recommendation, I asked friends on Facebook to suggest Broadway shows about crime and injustice. Thanks to everyone who suggested Sweeney Todd, Urinetown, Wicked, Assassins, Chicago, Parade, Ragtime, Batboy, and many more. And I'm going to recommend that you take a look at the beautifully produced 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis -- there's a link in the shownotes -- particularly two songs: Master of the House, and Beggars at the Feast.

In those songs, Matt Lucas -- you may know him as the only gay in the village from Little Britain -- plays Monsieur Thénardier, who calls himself "the best innkeeper in town," while running every moneymaking scheme he can think of. It's a very fun number, heightened by the comedic relish with which Lucas explains his dealmaking: "Glad to do a friend a favor," he sings, "doesn't cost me to be nice. But nothing gets you nothing; everything has got a little price."

At one point, the pure-hearted hero of the show, Jean Valjean, is captured by the Thénardiers. They discover his identity and inform on him to the law. Valjean narrowly escapes, as does Thénardier, who is able to survive by hiding himself in the sewers of Paris.

Our last glimpse of the character comes at the end of the play. Valjean has retreated from public eye, knowing that his criminal past threatens those he cares for; and Thénardier takes advantage of his absense to reappear under a new name.

In disguise, he tries once more to wring money from the heroes, but inadvertently reveals himself, reveals his deceit, and, crucially, reveals acts of kindness by Valjean that until then had gone unknown. At the last possible moment, our heroes learn of Valjean's great personal sacrifices, and are able to thank him before he dies.

The Thénardiers are ceaseless schemers. But ultimately they do illuminate a moral compass, providing clues as to what's right by showing what's wrong. Their voices may not be trustworthy -- but that doesn't mean there isn't be a benefit to thinking about what they choose to say.
 

Stuff we Talked About

Surrounded by Death and Drugs (Ep. 143 - Sina Grace & Iceman)

This Week's Guest: Sina Grace

sina promo image.jpg

My guest this week set out to answer a simple question: how do you live a content life? Sina Grace is the comic author and illustrator behind autobiographical books like Self-Obsessed, and Marvel's current Iceman series. A few years ago, he reached a point of disillusionment with the American dream, discovering getting all the money and possessions you wanted isn't as fulfilling as family, health, and love. Isolated and literally wasting away,  Sina set in motion some changes that would eventually bring him happiness in ways he never even knew he wanted.

Big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon, including new patrons Ryan, Michael, Chris, John, Jeremy, Tyler, Gareth, Brian, Jayblay, and the Indie Opera Podcast. I could not make the show without all of you. If you're enjoying the show, please help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. Just click support the show on Patreon.

If you have a moment, please leave a review of the show on your podcast platform of choice. 

You can follow the show on Twitter and Facebook -- just search for The Sewers of Paris. I post clips of the stuff we talked about each week, and also chat with listeners about the entertainment that changed THEIR lives. You can also write to sewerspodcast@gmail.com -- I love hearing from listeners.

This Week's Recommendation: All-New X-Men Issue #40

Big thanks to Sina for joining me. You can pick up his issues of Iceman at comic shops and online, though whenever possible please do support your local comics retailer. For my recommendation this week, step back a few years to All-New X-Men Issue #40, when Iceman first came out.

I've seen a million coming-out stories, and it's rare to find a new angle -- but this one's really nicely handled. The story involves a bit of time travel and young Bobby talking to an older version of himself. No spoilers, but there's a confrontation and a dialogue between them that reads like an echo of the dialogue between generations -- younger gay men expressing themselves authentically in a way that older gay men simply couldn't.

For that conflict to exist within a single character is a particularly brilliant approach, and lends a very special depth to Bobby's relationship with himself -- both the himself that is him and the himself that is someone else. Ugh, time travel stories.

Anyway it's a really lovely approach, and very meaningful that Marvel was willing to permit this story for Iceman -- one of the original characters dating back to the 1960s. And I think it echoes something that Sina said in our conversation -- "the person you become can be just as valuable as the person you were."

Stuff We Talked About

Nothing Lasts Forever
By Sina Grace
Not My Bag GN
By Sina Grace

Everything is Queer (Ep 142 - Matt Rogers)

This Week's Guest: Matt Rogers

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Where do you learn where you belong? My guest this week is Matt Rogers, half of the comedy team behind the Las Culturistas podcast. Matt's upbringing taught him that there was only one acceptable way to be masculine, while deep down inside he longed to belt showtunes. So how did he get from sporty athlete to an arbiter of the queerest of New York homosexual culture? All it took were a few panic attacks, Neil Patrick Harris, and a crab shack.

Check out Matt's Christmas show here.

Big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon. I could not make the show without you. If you're enjoying the show, please help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. Just go to SewersOfParis.com and click support the show on Patreon.

If you have a moment, please leave a review of the show on your podcast platform of choice. 

You can follow the show on Twitter and Facebook -- just search for The Sewers of Paris. I post clips of the stuff we talked about each week, and also chat with listeners about the entertainment that changed THEIR lives. You can also write to sewerspodcast@gmail.com -- thanks to Dave who wrote that he found me through my YouTube videos and said "You're on my list of favorite podcasts on Stitcher." 

This Week's Recommendation: Las Culturistas

Big thanks to Matt for joining me. I have a link to his show, Have You Heard of Christmas, in the shownotes. And for my recommendation this week, check out the podcast that he co-hosts with Bowen Yang, Las Culturistas.

Each week on the show, the pair have a guest on to talk about the culture that means the most to them -- a format that may be of interest to listeners of this show. But instead of diving deep into personal histories, Las Culturistas zooms far and wide from one touchstone to another, and by the end of each episode you'll have your arms full of new recommendations to explore. 

Of particular interest is recent episode 58 with past Sewers guest Guy Branum. The three of them manage to get into a pop cultural rhythm in their conversation that's so syncopated in its references it's more of a song than a casual chat. 

Matt and Bowen's enthusiasm for culture is infectious, and not entirely a surprise, knowing how Matt deprived himself when he was younger. Like Matt, my own media diet was fairly controlled as a kid, which is probably what led to to me having such an appetite I had to start a whole podcast. Like denying your sexuality, denying your culture leads to can lead to an explosion of interest when you finally do give yourself permissions to indulge. And that's not always a bad thing, as long as you over-indulge safely, and joyfully, and remember to share.

Stuff We Talked About