Royalties and a Husband (Ep. 136 - West Side Story & Eric Marcus of Making Gay History)

This Week's Guest: Eric Marcus

eric-promo-image.jpg

Is it a problem that there's "sex" in "homosexual"? My guest this week is Eric Marcus, a writer and journalist who often found himself called upon to represent the model gay man on shows like Good Morning America and The O'Reilly Factor. For years, Eric strove to put across an image of respectability and harmlessness. But these days, as the creator and host of the excellent podcast Making Gay History, and he's ready to share the pieces of our past that are enough to make anyone blush.

This Week's Recommendation: Free to be You and Me

Big thanks to Eric for joining me. Check out his podcast, Making Gay History, for absolutely spellbinding interviews with the people who shaped the queer world that we inhabit today.

The more I listen to his show, the more I note just how pivotal the sexual revolution was in queer liberation. America entered the sixties uptight and anxious, and emerged into the seventies not quite understanding how to talk about sex, but at least eager to try.

And that newfound openness even extended to the way that gender was explained to children. For my recommendation this week, take a look at the 1972 project Free to Be You and Me. It is incredibly cheesy by modern standards, but unless you are completely cynical I think you'll be won over by its adorably earnest sincerity.

Free to be You and Me is an album, book, stage play, and TV special, created by Marlo Thomas to encourage kids to look beyond gender stereotypes. Through various folksy songs and stories, children are told that it's ok to cry, that boys and girls can grow up to be whatever they want, and that it feels good to like who you are no matter what you are.

To call the songs heavy-handed is putting it mildly. They basically bludgeon you with their message of tolerance. But consider the climate in which it was made. In the early 70s, gender roles were so entrenched that any message of equality HAD to be radical and impassioned to be heard. It's why Free to be You and Me has endured, and it's why we remember Stonewall.

Stuff We Talked About

I Always Thought Your Father was a Bit of a Poof (Ep. 135 - Sonnet 20)

This Week's Guest: Will Kostakis

will-promo-image.jpg

What are the things you're not telling people -- and what's stopping you? My guest this week is Will Kostakis, author of award winning young adult novels and the upcoming book The Sidekicks. Growing up, Will and his best friend were as close as friends could be, or at least, they told themselves they were. There was something neither one was telling the other. 

Big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon. If you're enjoying the show, you can help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support

And if you've got a minute, an Apple Podcasts review would be super helpful as well. Thanks to Marshlc who writes "Almost every episode, the guests say something like 'Whew, thanks for this, it was like a therapy session!'" That does sometimes happen. What you don't know is that I'm billing my guests $200 an hour. Just kidding.

I do love to hear from listeners -- the show's @SewersOfParis on Twitter and Facebook. Or you can write to sewerspodcast@gmail.com.

Also if you're in Seattle, I hope you'll join us for another Dungeons and Drag Queens show! We have four fabulous drag queens on stage for one night only, role-playing their way through a custom-made, very queer Dungeons and Dragons adventure. It's happening October 25th at 7pm at the Timbre Room.

This Week's Recommendation: Fraud

Fraud: Essays
By David Rakoff

Big thanks to Will for joining me, and for speaking and writing so openly about his experiences with pain. We all have a built-in survival instinct that turns us away from anything that hurts. Confronting a source of suffering is difficult enough, but processing it to the point that you're ready to share it with others is brutally difficult task.

For my recommendation this week, take a look at David Rakoff's 2001 book, Fraud. I can't believe it's taken me this long to recommend the book -- front to back, it's one of my favorite pieces of writing. It's a series of essays, all lush and hilarious but also frayed at the edges with pain like a leaf starting to turn. 

The whole book is a masterpiece, but ever time I read it, I find myself tingling with anticipation of its final two paragraphs. We've just spent 225 pages with David, accompanying him on bizarre adventures to yoga retreats, posing as Freud in a shopping mall window, and to Loch Ness, all the while feeling like a detached imposter. Sometimes he wears a disguise, sometimes he places a pane of sarcasm between himself and his subjects, and always he establishes an emotional remove.

But on the last page of the book, after describing the period in his life when he nearly died from lymphoma, he asks, "what remains of your past if you didn't allow yourself to feel it when it happened? If you don't have your experiences in the moment, if you gloss them over with jokes or zoom past them, you end up with curiously dispassionate memories."

David passed away in 2012 when his lymphoma returned, and I think about the words at the end of this book a lot. That survival instinct we all have to turn away from pain, to avoid it or decorate it or disguise it -- that impulse can keep us alive, but it can also keep us from living.

Stuff we Talked About

The First Third
By Will Kostakis
Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology
By Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson
The Sidekicks
By Will Kostakis

Will's book The Sidekicks comes out October 17 in the US.

Music

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

Tina Turner Realness (Ep. 134 - Proud Mary)

This Week's Guest: Tony Moore

What's it like to go from a fan to a friend? This week's guest is Tony Moore, who hosts celebrity interviews on his show Loungin' with Tony. For years, he looked up to actors and entertainers as role models. And he found that the more he worked alongside them, the more they opened up to him -- not just as personalities, but as people.

Big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon. If you're enjoying the show, you can help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. 

And if you've got a minute, an Apple Podcasts review would be super helpful as well. 

And I love to hear from listeners -- the show's @SewersOfParis on Twitter and Facebook. Or you can write to sewerspodcast@gmail.com. Thanks to Tom, who wrote in, "I’m 57 and have been with my husband nearly 18 years now ... the podcast has helped me feel a little more connected to the community at large, especially people younger than we are.  And while I haven’t listened to every episode, I have to say that I’m shocked, SHOCKED that no one has mentioned Maria Callas yet!"

Oh Tom, you're in luck: you can find conversations about Maria Callas and opera on episodes 4, 87, and 105. And check out Tom's blog, First Vine, where he writes about the wine -- and look for his two-part series Out in the Wine Industry for conversations with queer vintners. 

This Week's Recommendation: Julian Clary

Big thanks to Tony for joining me. You can find his show at LounginWithTony.com, where he gets entertainers and artists comfortable enough to say things they never expected to.

We're accustomed to celebrities being so carefully controlled that they never have anything surprising or honest to say, which is why it's such a delight when a bit of truth slips out. My recommendation this week is actually a recommendation from a listener -- after last week's interview with Scott Flashheart mentioned the comedian Julian Clary, Jon Dryden Taylor tweeted @SewersOfParis to suggest I take a look at Julian's presentation at the 1993 British Comedy Awards. It's available to watch on YouTube.

On the show, Julian comes strolling out on stage at the awards show, on a set that's been decorated to look, for some reason, like a dilapidated public park. He jokingly thanks the show for recreating Hampstead Heath -- that was a notorious gay cruising spot -- and the audience laughs. Then you can see Julian looking around, deciding whether he should go for the joke he wants to tell about an idiot politician who was then the target of widespread derision in Britan, and who was also present in the audience.

Finally he opens his mouth and says it: "In fact, I've just been fisting Norman Lamont." The audience explodes into chaos at the joke, and there's a long minute of bedlam as nobody can believe what they've just heard. Just as the laughter is dying down, Julian makes a reference to the red ministerial briefcases common in British government, quipping, "talk about a red box."

Newspapers campaigned to have Julian banned from television, and he soon found that joking about fisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer was an excellent way to clear his calendar for the next few years. 

But despite that, Julian says he's never regretted the joke. It's certainly followed him closely over the intervening twenty-four years. But it also redefined who Julian was in the eyes of the public: previously, he was seen as a safe, polite, clean comic -- campy, but never campy beyond innuendo. 

But camp, as Susan Sontag has noted, is more than just gaudy lampshades and goofy drag. Camp is a reaction to the banal, combatting bland culture with ludicrous affectation. "It is a feat," she wrote, "goaded on, in the last analysis, by boredom."

Julian's said in interviews that he dared himself to tell the joke before walking out on stage. And watching it now, I wonder if it might have been a joke not at Norman Lamont's expense -- but at his own.

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/