The Sewers of Paris is a podcast about how gay men's lives were shaped by their favorite books, movies, music, and shows. Each week, guests open up about their secret struggles, hidden passions, and surprising triumphs by plucking a piece of entertainment from their past and answering the question: how did it change your life?
Sex Advice Columnist Dan Savage
Showtunes, The Boys in the Band, and the human menorah
If, like me, you are a huge fan of Dan Savage's work, you've probably heard him speak at length about sex and love and news and politics -- but this conversation is going to be a little different as we dive into 8-track tapes, secret bike rides, family arguments, and a rule-breaking theater troupe where Dan honed his sense of shock and showmanship long before he was known for dispensing Savage Love.
Have you ever been lucky enough to enjoy the sensation of villainy? My guest this week is Anthony Oliveira, who you might also know for his incisive tweeting as Meakoopa. Anthony's always felt a sympathy for monsters and villains -- or at least, the figures assumed to be monsters and villains -- even before he was old enough to realize that he might be considered one himself.
Writer & Comedian Louis Virtel
Game shows, Clue, and great actresses of the 1970s
"For trivia people, Jeopardy! is The Hajj," Louis Virtel says on this week's episode of The Sewers of Paris. "You don't know what The Hajj has in store for you, but you have to make it once in your lifetime."
Louis' infamous snap, captured and deployed in countless GIFs since he appeared on Jeopardy!, happened in the spur of the moment. But in the lead up to his appearance, he was one big bundle of nerves.
Performer Zak the Barber
Dresden Dolls, No Doubt, Beats Antique, Pantera, AC/DC, M.I.A., White Zombie, Gogol Bordello
What happens when you grow up so fast you become an adult while you're still a kid? My guest this week is Zak, who was wise beyond his years by the time he was 14, thanks in part to a young love triangle and also being raised by a house full of strippers.Zak had barely entered high school when he felt ready to set out on his own, and start his own life. But he found that while you can grow up fast, you can't rush adulthood. That's how he wound up spending several teenage years drifting across the state, a runaway, in every sense of the word.
Comedian Guy Branum
Party Girl, Hello Dolly, and Margaret Thatcher
Why is "gay" the word that the world seems to have picked to describe us? My guest Guy Branum has some thoughts on the topic, and on many more. You can see Guy as the host of "Talk Show the Game Show," debuting April 5 on TruTV, where celebrities compete to be the best guest on a talk show. There could be no better environment for Guy, a brilliantly funny comedian with a superpower for first breaking rules, and then reassembling them into something far more fascinating.
Drag Queen Robbie Turner
Classic movies, Linda Ronstadt, and Shakespeare
Who taught you how to be beautiful? My guest this week made a lifelong study of the most beautiful woman he knew, his mother, even going so far as to transform into a character who bears an uncanny resemblance. You might know Robbie Turner the character from this season's Drag Race, or from her regular appearances at shows in Seattle and around the country. She might've hosted your Pride, or officiated your wedding. But on today's episode we're going to get to know Robbie Turner the man.
Opera Director Paul Curran
Donna Summer, Moliere, and Baz Luhrmann
At this point, we're all very familiar with the foundational queer story that many of us have lived: feeling like outcasts, fleeing from small towns to big cities, and searching for our tribe. But what happens once you get to that big city? What can you create once you're free to create the life you've always wanted? My guest this week is Paul Curran, who hitchhiked from Glasgow to London in search of something better at the age of sixteen. There he trained as a ballet dancer until an injury ended his career on stage, and launched a whole new career as a director.
Porn Actor & Academic Conor Habib
Superfriends, Buffy, and Porn
You may think you already know a lot about Conner, given that you've probably seen him naked in such films as Dad Goes to College, Hot House Backroom Volume 18, and Brief Encounters. But Conner actually holds his cards pretty close to his furry chest. Though you might've seen him naked in porn, you probably know less about his background growing up in Mennonite country, dabbling in the occult, getting lost in the Pennsylvania punk scene, and his secret super power.
Artist Fazaad Feroze
Gargoyles, John Waters, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
How far up your family tree would you have to go before the way your family lives became unrecognizable? My guest this week is Fazaad Feroze, whose parents grew up in huts in Guyana before moving to the United States. As you can imagine, assimilation into American culture wasn't always easy.
Playwright Robert Patrick
Judy Garland, classic films, Bohemia, and off-off-Broadway
Before Pride, before gay marriage, before disco, before most of what we recognize today as gay culture, there was Greenwich Village. It's the gay enclave that invented gay enclaves, a place where you went to reject mainstream after the mainstream had rejected you. My guest today is playwright Robert Patrick, who wandered into the Village as an unsuspecting young gay man in the 1960s. He was only supposed to be there for a day, but he wound up staying for years, witnessing -- and participating in -- one of the most important periods in American theater history.
Big Ol' Nerd Charlie Logan
Star Trek, The Black Hole, Bye Bye Birdie, Portal, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Wham!, Erasure
When you think about the science fiction, what comes to mind? Maybe some silvery uniforms, blue guys with antennas, blinking lights. You know, the future. What's great about imaginary futures is that they're places of potential, an escape to a place where where everything's better, or sometimes worse. And whatever problems we have today have all been solved -- or maybe exacerbated. This week's guest is Charlie Logan, founder of the Pink Parties, a regular series of huge queer nerd gatherings that are timed to Seattle's biggest comic and videogame conventions. Charlie started throwing Pink Parties as a way to find other gays who shared his love of anything geeky, and his hope for a better future, and his need to escape. Because after all, as we'll hear, for a time there was a lot that he needed to escape from.
NPR Reporter Sonari Glinton
Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, Willa White, and Judy Garland
When you look back on your life, who are the adults who were wiser than you realized at the time? My guest this week is NPR's Sonari Glinton. He grew up in Chicago, surrounded by amazing artists and curators who managed to steer him in the directions that were exactly what a little queer kid needed.
E! Host Steve Kmetko
Hollywood, celebrities, and The Wizard of Oz
My guest this week is Steve Kmetko, best known as the face of the E! cable network from 1994 to 2002. He hosted countless Oscar and Emmy broadcasts, reported from film festivals, and interviewed everyone who was anyone in Hollywood. It was his dream job, but privately, he was being weighed down by a lifetime of baggage: a career that demanded he stay closeted, and a religious upbringing that burdened him with guilt.
Although his career was going great, the pressure of keeping a secret just kept building as the years went on. Until finally, after years of putting tough questions to everyone around him, it was time for Steve to tell the truth about himself.
It was a gutsy move. Risky. And there were times that he paid a price for being honest about who he was. But the acceptance that LGBTs enjoy today simply wouldn't be possible if not for the high-profile figures who stepped forward in years past, people whom we give particular thanks.
Game Designer Tork Shaw
Queer as Folk, Round the Horne, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Oscar Wilde, and Kenneth Horne
In the 1960s, fabulous queer characters were hiding in plain sight on the BBC radio show Round the Horne, which featured two squealing gays speaking in barely-veiled innuendo. They were using a form of gay British slang known as "Polari" that's all but died out today. Decades later, Tork Shaw would listen to tapes of the episode in the car with this family, and he'd hear something of himself in the bookish, aristocratic, quick-witted gays like Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick on the radio. He didn't quite fit in at school -- everyone around him was sporty and posh -- so he cultivated a caustic wit, modeled on the Round the Horne's Julian and Sandy, Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward. But by the time he was teenager, he was feeling ready to set that aside. "I didn't want to be mean anymore," he said. "What happens if I let go of everything I've done in the past?"
Director Wes Hurley
Curly Sue, Hudson Hawk, Ghost, Labyrinth, Diana Ross, and Ben DeLaCreme
My guest this week is Wes Hurley, creator of the incredible web series Capitol Hill. Season 2 of the show just premiered on YouTube this week, and it's laden with references from all across the broad landscape of American popular culture. Growing up in Vladivostok, Russia, American movies and TV shows floated to Wes through secretive, often illegal channels, and they gave him hope that maybe someday he wouldn't have to walk a mile for clean water, or carry a knife to school, or find human remains washing past his house in a flood. Bootleg American movies kept his spirits up, but when he and his mother were finally able to escape to the United States, they found the country wasn't quite what he'd been led to expect.
Entertainer Mark Finley
Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Pinky & the Brain, Studio 54, Quentin Crisp, and HIV
"There was an incident and I was found to be insane," Mark reveals on this week's episode, "because my flamboyant behavior was disruptive."
Mark's been around long enough to remember when being gay was assumed to be a mental illness, and the very presence of an openly gay teenager was too much for anyone to bear. He fled his small hometown as quickly as he could, spending time in Japan, Cal Arts, and for a time at Brigham Young University where he says "I felt mighty comfortable. But apparently they didn't."
An unannounced exorcism made him aware that his presence might not have been entirely welcome at BYU. "I was sleeping with a lot of guys," he says. "Always there to lend a helping hand. I haven't been called 'The Golden Throat' all my life for nothing."
His wild life in the theater eventually took him to New York, where he took some advice given to him by Carol Burnett to heart: "you sound like you really love theater," she told him when he was young and wrote to her for advice. "And if you love it, keep doing it."
Mark Finley Part 2
My guest this week is Mark Finley. Again. I spoke to Mark last week about his career as an actor and talent coordinator, fleeing his small town and meeting his heroes. Mark shared so many incredible memories that I invited him back to talk more about his time in New York, traveling around the country, and how he survived after doctors told him six months to live.
As you'll hear, the audio of our conversation is a little echoey -- it's quite not as clear as a normal episode. But the memories Mark shared are just so incredible I had to share them with you, echo and all.
- Apr 8, 2015 Welcome to the Sewers of Paris
- Apr 8, 2015 Camp is like Pornography (Ep. 1: Eurovision)
- Apr 16, 2015 I was Quite Happy to be the Villain (Ep. 2: Julian and Sandy)
- Apr 16, 2015 Gay Men's Catnip (Ep. 3: Wizard of Oz)
- Apr 18, 2015 Short and Super-Perverted (Ep. 4: Salome)
- Apr 23, 2015 Funny and Salacious and Dangerous (Ep. 5: Soap)
- Apr 30, 2015 There's no Word in Afrikaans for Gay (Ep. 6: South Africa)
- May 2015
- June 2015
- Jul 2, 2015 I'm Not Gay, I'm Just a Dance Major (Ep. 15 - The Boys in the Band)
- Jul 9, 2015 Important Fiction with Wieners (Ep. 16 - E.M. Forster)
- Jul 16, 2015 Libraries Have Always Felt Safe (Ep. 17 - Redwall and The Virgin Mary)
- Jul 23, 2015 The Witch's Perspective (Ep. 18 - Wicked)
- Jul 30, 2015 Drag Clothing for GI Joes (Ep. 19 - The Birdcage)
- Aug 6, 2015 I Could be Black and Gay and Also a Writer (Ep. 20 - Will & Grace and Langston Hughes)
- Aug 12, 2015 I'm Rooting for the Pig (Ep. 21 - The Muppet Show)
- Aug 20, 2015 There's Something About Not Giving a F*ck (Ep. 22 - Nintendo Games & John Waters)
- Aug 27, 2015 I Prefer the Term "Enchanted" (Ep. 23 - Magic, Puppetry, and Mr. Rogers)
- Sep 3, 2015 The Cecil B. DeMille of Porn (Ep. 24 - Batman & Chi Chi LaRue)
- Sep 10, 2015 Terrifying and yet Intriguing (Ep. 25 - Punk Rock)
- Sep 17, 2015 Giving Yourself a Crash Course in Gay (Ep. 26 - Cinephiles)
- Sep 24, 2015 You Don't Own Me (Ep. 27 - First Wives Club)
- Oct 1, 2015 Trust it & Thrust it (Ep. 28 - Showgirls & Ellen)
- Oct 8, 2015 People Wearing Masks (Ep. 29 - Hocus Pocus)
- Oct 15, 2015 I Got a Kick out of Freaking People Out (Ep. 30 - Interview with the Vampire)
- Oct 22, 2015 You Can't Make Us Feel Ashamed (Ep. 31 - The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
- Oct 29, 2015 The Final Girl (Ep. 32 - Nightmare on Elm Street)
- November 2015
- Dec 3, 2015 Flamboyant Before I was Ready (Ep. 37 - Moulin Rouge & Big Brother)
- Dec 10, 2015 When You Don’t Have Words to Say, You Sing (Ep. 38 - Angels in America)
- Dec 17, 2015 Just be Gay, It's Fine (Ep. 39 - The Cosby Show)
- Dec 24, 2015 The Sewers of Paris Holiday-Special Special
- Dec 31, 2015 My Mom Had to Look up "Homosexual" at the Library (Ep. 41 - Carol Burnett)
- Jan 7, 2016 I'm not an Expert, Except that I Have a Heart (Ep. 42 - Captain Kirk)
- Jan 14, 2016 The Best Smut You'll Ever Read (Ep. 43 - Anais Nin)
- Jan 21, 2016 The Person I was in Namibia and the Person I am Now (Ep. 44 - Desperate Housewives)
- Jan 28, 2016 The Joke of Being Gay (Ep. 45 - Polyester & Arrested Development)
- February 2016
- Mar 3, 2016 I Embrace Being High-Strung (Ep. 50 - Louis Virtel & Jeopardy!)
- Mar 10, 2016 That's a Life in the Theater (Ep. 51 - Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett)
- Mar 17, 2016 If You Can Survive it, do it (Ep. 52 - Gay New York in the 70s & 80s)
- Mar 24, 2016 My Land's Only Borders Lie Around my Heart (Ep. 53 - Chess, Mariah, and Wicked)
- Mar 31, 2016 Don't Follow Rules (Ep. 54 - Indie Rock, Chiptunes, and Video Games)
- Apr 7, 2016 My Cat Makes Me Laugh a Lot (Ep. 55 - Bette Midler)
- Apr 14, 2016 I Needed to Feel at Home in my Home (Ep. 56 - Matilda)
- Apr 21, 2016 I was in Fantasy Worlds with Quests and Wizards (Ep. 57 - Dungeons & Dragons)
- Apr 28, 2016 I'm in the Whore Houses and the Leper Colonies (Ep. 58 - Robbie Turner)
- May 2016
- Jun 2, 2016 You Don't Want to See Minnie Mouse Take Her Head Off (Ep. 63 - Ben DeLaCreme)
- Jun 9, 2016 Villains and Hairdressers (Ep. 64 - Bryan Safi)
- Jun 16, 2016 Earthquakes Are Fine, I'd Just Rather not be in Eugene (Ep. 65 - Tokyo Drag Queen)
- Jun 23, 2016 My Slumber Parties Were Notorious (Ep. 66 - Greenwich Village)
- Jun 30, 2016 The Lost Year in Argentina (Ep. 67 - 80s Pop Songs)
- Jul 7, 2016 The Girlie Show (Ep. 68 - Madonna)
- Jul 14, 2016 What's Gayer than Plinko? (Ep. 69 - Body Heat)
- Jul 21, 2016 I was Fresh Meat and a Hustler (Ep. 70 - The Kids in the Hall)
- Jul 28, 2016 Go and Love Some More (Ep. 71 - Harold and Maude)
- Aug 4, 2016 A Bomb Went Through the Wall of the House (Ep. 72 - Sondheim)
- Aug 11, 2016 We Were Our Own John Hughes Movie (Ep. 73 - Voyagers)
- Aug 18, 2016 The Women and the Monsters (Ep. 74: Drew Droege)
- Aug 25, 2016 A Gateway Drug to Fabulous (Ep. 75 - 80s Cartoons)
- Sep 1, 2016 Clam Diggers and Mussel Suckers (Ep. 76 - Coco Peru)
- Sep 8, 2016 Little Mouse in a Big World (Ep. 77 - Furries)
- Sep 15, 2016 All Mothers Know (Ep. 78 - Clueless)
- Sep 22, 2016 A Kid Who Had Powers in Japan (Ep. 79 - Sailor Moon)
- Sep 29, 2016 I Have To Tell You Something Really Bad (Ep. 80 - Howard's End)
- Oct 6, 2016 Where's the Pazow? (Ep. 81 - HR Pufnstuff)
- Oct 13, 2016 The Moon's About to Fall (Ep. 82 - Majora's Mask)
- Oct 20, 2016 Vagabonds Like Me (Ep. 83 - Stand by Me)
- Oct 27, 2016 The Nicest Debt Collector Around (Ep. 84 - Great British Bake Off)
- November 2016
- Dec 1, 2016 Don't Ask Me Out Again Until You've Written Chapter Two (Ep. 90 - Tootsie)
- Dec 8, 2016 Tragically Ludicrous and Ludicrously Tragic (Ep. 91 - Reality Shows)
- Dec 15, 2016 That Really Felt Like Christmas Magic (Ep. 92 - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
- Dec 22, 2016 A Telemundo Reaction (Ep. 93 - Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)
- Dec 29, 2016 The Best Gay Entertainment of 2016
- Jan 5, 2017 A Need to be Doused in Black Culture - (Ep. 95 - Sonari Glinton)
- Jan 12, 2017 A Big Purple Man in a Loin Cloth (Ep. 96 - Gargoyles)
- Jan 19, 2017 Going to the Beach with John Waters (Ep. 97 - Peaches Christ)
- Jan 26, 2017 Screaming on the Inside, Placid on the Outside (Ep. 98 - Mary Tyler Moore)
- February 2017
- Mar 2, 2017 A Weird Thing From Outer Space Having a Love Affair (Ep. 103 - RISK's Kevin Allison)
- Mar 9, 2017 It Makes Every Gay Bone in my Body Vibrate (Ep. 104 - Broadway)
- Mar 16, 2017 I Always Wanted to be the Pretty one (Ep. 105 - Miss Universe)
- Mar 23, 2017 A Giraffe Gynecologist (Ep. 106 - Opera)
- Mar 30, 2017 You Can be Sad or You Can be Gay (Ep. 107 - Guy Branum)
- April 2017
- May 2017
- Jun 1, 2017 Queer Desire Has Always Been There (Ep. 116: Kurt Cobain)
- Jun 8, 2017 I Was a Teenage Theater Tyrant (Ep. 117 - Pee-wee Herman)
- Jun 15, 2017 Roll Yourself in Glitter - (Ep. 118: Justin Sayre)
- Jun 22, 2017 He Found Out my Secret - (Ep. 119: Matchgame & Press Your Luck)
- Jun 29, 2017 Anita Bryant, God Bless Her (Ep. 120: Gore Vidal)
- Jul 6, 2017 We've Cornered the Market on Mermaids (Ep. 121 - Joel Kim Booster)
- Jul 13, 2017 Elizabeth Taylor is my Higher Power (Ep. 122 - Hillary Clinton)
- Jul 20, 2017 Going to Face the Dragon (Ep. 123 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Jul 27, 2017 Luxury Music for Surplus People (Ep. 124 - Madonna & Prince)