Perfect Day

Comfort and JoyI probably shouldn’t tell this story. All my friends will hate me. No, they both already know.

Recently, I was thinking about the perfect day of my life. I came home from work. My roommate was gone. She was the bartender at a strip club. She had been a stripper herself when she was younger. I’ve known a lot of strippers. I like them. I like how they manage to get men to give them money for nothing. Men are pigs and deserve it.

My roommate was one of those great female friends that I’ve had where there really was no sexual interest on either side. On my side, I’m just not that sexual. On her side, I’m ugly. So she’s off serving beers to the guys, probably getting tips that are bigger than the naked women. And I am all alone.

So I walk down to the video store where the guy there likes me because I’m into the same kind of movies he’s into. And the gal there probably has a crush on me, but I don’t realize it at the time because I’m kind of an idiot. It’s too bad too, because she had really good taste in movies too. After flirting with her a bit, I rented Comfort and Joy, which is still not available on DVD in this country, which is a sin against God and country and pretty much anything else you can name. But this was in the days before DVDs, so I just rented the VHS, which you can still get.

I walk home, because this is Portland, where you can do that kind of thing because things are close by. And on my way, I stopped at a local cafe that was just closing. I buy a bowl of tomato soup (not cream), which came with a big piece of sour dough french bread. And then at home, I watch the movie and eat my soup and bread. And it is wonderful. No. It is perfect.

There have been many other great times in my life. And most of them involved other people. I used to host a lot of dinner and cocktail parties. When I was very naughty, I hosted cocktail parties that had secret cocktail parties inside them. Oh yes, I’ve been around!

But you really can’t beat a little flirting, some nice food, and a Bill Forsyth film. I really can’t imagine ever topping that.

High Taxes Killed the Movies!

Ronald ReaganThis is delicious!

Back in 1981, when the recently elected President Ronald Reagan was pushing to lower income taxes, he said something that is really great to the Washington Post. Unfortunately, that particular article doesn’t seem to be online, so I’ve had to get it from The Christian Science Monitor, No “Voodoo” in Dole’s Tax Cut.

Are you ready, because this is really great. Wanna get a beer? Some popcorn? Okay, here we go:

When I was in the movies, I would reach the point each year when, after the second movie, I’d be in the 90 percent bracket, so I wouldn’t make any more movies that year. And it wasn’t just me. Bogart and Gable and others did the same thing.

There’s a serious part of the this, but let’s just bask in the glow of that false equivalence. The great Hollywood stars: Bogart, Gable, and… Reagan?! You gotta give it to the guy, he didn’t lack for confidence. Let’s see now: Bogart starred in Casablanca and The African Queen. I assume you’ve heard of those. Gable starred in the Oscar sweeping It Happened One Night (also one of my very favorite movies) and a little sleeper called Gone With the Wind. And Reagan starred in (well: co-starred in) Knute Rockne, All American and Bedtime for Bonzo. For the record, Bonzo Goes to College was far better, but Reagan wasn’t in it. Not that I’m implying anything!

But the truth is that the high tax rate was not actually limiting Bogart and Gable from making films. From 1936 onward, the top marginal tax rate was at least 9 percentage points higher than it was when Reagan was complaining about the tax rate in 1981. But Bogart wasn’t making two pictures per year. Of course, he really didn’t become a star until High Sierra in 1941. But from 1945 onward, when he was a big star and the top tax bracket was 90% or more, he made a lot of films. In 1953, with a tax rate of 92%, he made three big pictures: The Caine Mutiny, Sabrina, and The Barefoot Contessa.

Similarly, with Gable, who was a star much earlier, he made five films the year he won the Oscar for It Happened One Night. He only made two the year of Gone With the Wind, but that isn’t surprising since the principal photography for that one film took up over half the year. Regardless, you know that if it took Reagan two films to reach the 90% tax rate, that Bogart and Gable reached it in one film easily.

But if you look at stars today: Johnny Depp or George Clooney, they also make about two films per year. This is despite the much lower top marginal tax bracket and the much lower capital gains rate, which they get as being executive producers.

What’s especially interesting though, is that Reagan was lying about himself. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s (after which he got into television), he made tons of movies. So I don’t even know what he’s talking about. Maybe the dementia was already strong in 1981.

Reagan went on to talk about how the fact that he wasn’t willing to make more movies meant that grips and other movie professionals were hurt. The idea I guess is that rather than find another actor, the studio would just not make a movie because people only wanted to see a chimp work with Ronald Reagan. The studios make what the studios make. If George Clooney dies tonight, Hollywood will make exactly the same number of pictures next year.

Anyway, I thought that quote was funny as hell and I had to share it. It is weird though, that conservatives always talk about how liberals don’t see the world as it is. But they just make up stories to prove their points. If we were to believe Reagan, To Have and Have Not never would have been made, because the top tax rate was 94%. What was Bogart thinking!

All the Sorta Gay Sorta Celebs

Cary GrantYou know me: I love link bait. So when I saw this headline, I had to click over to an article on Rant Lifestyle, 25 Celebs That Shocked Us When They Came Out as Gay. It’s kind of a challenge, because really, how likely is it that anyone was shocked when whomever came out as gay. In fact, recently, I’ve been thinking about writing an article, “Celebs that Shocked Me When They Turned Out as Straight.” I have quite a list. Robert Preston as married for 47 years. Joel Grey was married 24 years and had two children, one of which was a rather bad actor. Tony Randall was married for 50 years to Florence Gibbs, when she died. But he was so heterosexual that he got married three years later at the age of 75 and sired two children. But maybe it’s just me: I automatically assume any man who was a musical theater star is gay. I’m also surprised that Grace Jones is straight. Regardless, at this point, an article about shockingly straight celebs strikes me as a lot more interesting than one about gay celebs. (And yes: I am using the term “celebs” simply because it annoyed me in the original headline!)

The list of 25 was divided into two groups: one small and one large. The small one consisted of people I had actually heard of. And there was one shocker that I will come back to. But first, let me list all the celebs that I have never heard of: Matt Bomer, the star of a show I’ve never heard of; Jason Collins, a basketball player who bravely came out after he retired—the article says he “truly came out” as opposed to Oscar Robertson who “falsely came out”; Raven Symone who appears to star in a show with her name in it; Lady Sovereign who is some kind of cute (I use that in the worse possible sense) rapper; Amber Heard is one of those models who looks hot emerging from bodies of water—but she’s not gay, she’s bisexual, unless, you know, Johnny Depp is a transvestite (which is possible); Zachary Quinto is a television actor with fabulous hair; Victor Garber is someone who acts in a lot of bad movies but may be great—how would I know?; Jonathan Bennett is a “leader star” which I think is Rant Lifestyle for “we don’t know how to write”; Matt Dallas played the title character in a television show I’ve never heard of; Sarah Paulson was in a television show; Jonathan Knight was in a boys band; Suze Orman who is one of those celebs that don’t seem to qualify as celebs at all—or maybe celeb isn’t short for celebrity (I’m so out of it, how would I know?).

Most of the people who I actually knew from their work I also knew explicitly were gay, because, you know, they talk about it all the time. For example, Ian Mckellen, who frankly couldn’t hide it if he wanted to. It was much more surprising to learn that Derek Jacobi was gay because (1) he doesn’t talk about it so much, and (2) he’s a better actor. It was only watching him nancing around while directing Hamlet that I found out. (Jacobi is not on the list because he wasn’t in Lord of the Rings I guess.) Another example is Portia de Rossi. Was not her marriage to Ellen DeGeneres something like an American Royal Wedding. Jeez!

It turns out that Ricky Martin is gay. I didn’t even know who he was in 1999, but after seeing this I knew:

Jodie Foster? Ha ha ha!

I didn’t know who Gillian Anderson was by name. But I found out that she was a star on a show I know was really big but which I never saw because I thought taste required it. She seems to be gay only in the sense that she had a lesbian affair in high school. Since then, she’s had two husbands, one long-term boyfriend, and three children.

I also didn’t know David Hyde Pierce by name, but of course, he’s the guy who played Niles Crane on Frasier. And of course he was gay. The producers got together and said, “Kelsey Grammer is just a total unlikeable jerk, we need to pair him up with with a nice gay guy.” It was magic! I was just disappointed that the series didn’t end with Frasier falling down in the park and being eaten by rabid squirrels.

Kelly McGillis has spent a lot of time married to men, but I guess the new haircut sealed it for anyone wondering for at least ten years.

Nathan Lane? Ha ha ha!

Cynthia Nixon is bisexual. She had a husband and two children with him. Now she has a wife. It’s weird how homosexuality is like blackness. If you are one percent black, you’re black; if you’re one percent gay, you’re gay. I did find out she’s suffered from breast cancer and has become an advocate. But I have no idea what the status of the disease is. She was first diagnosed in 2006, so hopefully she has made a full recovery.

Wanda Sykes? Yes, if you had never seen Sykes do her stand-up routine and had never heard her talk you might have missed this. She was once married to record producer Dave Hall, which might have pushed her over the edge. I know that I’ve remained straight all these years because of Dave Hall. (I’m kidding! I’m sure Dave Hall is a perfectly nice guy and great in the sack!)

Annie Leibovitz? Say it ain’t so! If only Susan Sontag were around to confirm or deny!

Okay, now I have to get serious. Was Eleanor Roosevelt gay? It doesn’t really look like it. Maybe she lusted in her heart. She certainly was comfortable with lesbian couples. And she had a very strong friendship with Lorena Hickok. But there is no evidence of them consummating it. What’s more, I think people want to jump from physical affection to sex when it isn’t necessarily warrented. Human beings are complex, and Eleanor Roosevelt was more complex than most. Regardless, her sex life is about the least interesting thing about one of the most interesting people of the twentieth century. Oh, and did I mention she had six children? Also: those rumors about Roosevelt have been around forever—they are hardly shocking.

Now for a real shock: Cary Grant was gay! Except, well, he wasn’t. This is a similar situation with Eleanor Roosevelt. Grant did have some strong friendships with men, and I’m afraid everyone wants to sexualize them. It’s possible that he was bisexual, we’ll never really know. We do know he was married five times and those women all confirm that they had a lot of sex. But I think there is something in a lot of us who like the idea that someone as witty and debonair as Grant must be gay. You know, someone like Noel Coward.

Regardless of all that, you can bet that when a website offers you “25 Celebs That Shocked Us When They Came Out as Gay,” we are not going to be shocked and many of the people are not going to be gay. Well, at least the list didn’t include Oscar Wilde or Alan Turing. But Nathan Lane? Really?! I mean, really: really?!

Posted in Uncategorized

You’ll Find Everything in Balzac

Honore de BalzacToday: a love story.

You may remember back a couple of days when I wrote about The Music Man. My favorite part in the movie is when Marian’s mother asks what the gentleman wanted and Marian replies, “You’ll find it in Balzac.” I must have been seven years old when I heard that line and I knew I had to find out about this Balzac character. Her mother then later mentioned that, “She never read it.” That’s funny because Honore de Balzac, who was born on this day in 1799, wrote 91 essays, novels, and short stories, in addiction to 46 unfinished works all collectively known La Comedie Humaine (The Human Comedy). Balzac was not at all a smutty writer, but he is pretty much the first realist writer—he wrote of the world (post-Bonaparte France) as it was. He was a huge and direct influence on Dickens, but there are few great writers who followed him who were not, most notably Henry James.

Ewelina HanskaIn 1931, Balzac published La Peau de chagrin (The Magic Skin) about a poor and lonely man who gets a magic bit of rawhide that will grant all his desires. But with each desire, the rawhide shrinks and takes part of the man’s vitality. This isn’t like a the genii in a bottle where you make a wish, he finds that he can’t control it. The book ends with the hero wanting to die in the arms of the woman he loves while she runs from him, trying to kill herself in order to save his life. Of course, just as with The Monkey’s Paw (published 70 years later), the rawhide will not be denied and the two consummate their love before he dies in her arms.

The following year, Balzac got an anonymous letter without a return address. It criticizes the novel for its cynicism and its negative portrayal of women. Balzac was so impressed with the letter that he placed a classified ad in the Gazette de France. Soon he found that the letter came from Ewelina Hanska. She was in a marriage of convenience to a nobleman and landlord, so the two could not run off together. For 15 years they corresponded, until Hanska’s husband died in 1941. Thus began a nine year courtship. (Apparently, Franz Liszt was also trying to win her favor.)

The two finally married on 14 March 1850. But by then, Balzac’s health was failing and he died six months later—kind of like in the novel. Still, it is sweet that the two managed to get together. And they had been friends for almost 25 years.

Happy birthday Honore de Balzac!