Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Year In Review

As we close on another year, it seemed fitting to spend some time, while nursing a holiday cold, and reflect on the past year – both personally and professionally.

First – this blog.

When I began this blog in January 2006, I did so out of conversations with some close friends who felt that I needed to open up and share my memories with others – if not the world. Honestly, I had always thought of putting pen to paper and documenting my life – since it truly has been quite a ride. But the idea that anyone else would be interested in reading my ramblings – seemed a bit presumptuous to me.

So I began – I started with safe stories about my club life – things I’ve told in public and had no fear typing out. Then, I began to sense a peeling away of hardened layers that had embraced me for years. With each post I felt more and more alive. I could breathe – even if no one read my posts, the fact that I was finally expressing myself was exhilarating!

Then, the dam broke – I decided to just let loose and write about everything; my carefree party days as a youth, my first love and my battle with losing so many friends to AIDS. I told My Story – one that was known by some in drips and drabs – but once I began typing, I wasn’t able to stop.

A year past and the blog had served its purpose – but now I felt like I should do something more with this – I had discovered my joy for writing and had inspired some readers to start their own blog and their own journey. This blog became bigger than just a cathartic exercise. So I’ve struggled with what to do with this space in the Internet – I spent most of 2007 trying to figure out what guidelines I should apply to this URL and then – as fate would have it – I met an incredible human being in summer ’07 and that gave me a beautiful distraction to this blog.

However, recently I have felt like I need to turn my attention back to writing – I really enjoyed it and I’ve not allowed myself the time to express myself creatively via this blog. I have more stories to share about my life, my past and my view.

So, this is my resolution to myself – 2008 opens itself up to a new and improved sense of dedication to this blog … I truly appreciate those readers (like you) who stuck with me this year while I found myself and my focus.

I wish you a healthy and soothing entry into the new year and I’ll see you on the other side!


Thanks :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust



DEAN JOHNSON, R.I.P.

Dean Johnson, the six-foot-six bald-headed, HIV-positive, meth-using porn star and glam-rock frontman known for his New York events such as C.B.G.B.’s “Rock ‘n Roll Fag Party” was found dead in D.C. last week. Sadly, his body laid in a local morgue for days before being identified. According to the New York Post, Johnson was routinely visiting Washington to run “weird sex parties” for an unidentified Saudi millionaire. (not surprising)

Think what you want about Dean and his life - but the fact was, Dean was a integral part of the NYC Downtown Scene in the 80s and 90s. I first met Dean in the mid-1980s at a few NYC parties and he was truly one-of-a-kind. Each time I would be in the City and we would cross paths, he would remember my name and our friendship. When he produced The Velvet Mafia's CD "We Know Where You Live", I was happy to be in a position (both at WXPN and nationally with Music Choice) to spin his music to the masses. His persona lit up a room and he was always creative and his unique level of wackiness will be missed by many.

In his memory - I am linking to a page within The Velvet Mafia website - it is Dean's raw story of arriving in NYC in 1979 and being there - smack-dab in the middle of the whole New Wave explosion and learning how to make the decade his own! Reading this page really gives you an insight on just how f'n cool NYC was back in the early 80s and one of the reasons I enjoyed going there so much back then!

(click the CD cover to go to the diary page)



Oh - and even the one and only Nelson Sullivan crossed paths with Dean while living in the darkness of NYC nightlife. Here he caught Dean live on stage at NYC's Pyramid Club back in September 1985 - check out this look back 22 years!

(click to watch the vid - qucktime required)


Monday, September 03, 2007

SEX DWARF: ISN'T IT NICE
- the latest documentary from Aegis Entertainment
covering the 4th anniversary of Sex Dwarf last month at Fluid!

SEX DWARF: Isn't It Nice Trailer

Add to My Profile | More Videos

The Solstice Film Series
First Thursday, September 6
@
National Mechanics
South 3rd Street
btw. Market & Chestnut
films start @ 8
the Sex Dwarf doc should start in the 9pm hour!
FREE ADMISSION!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Young @ Heart

A while back I posted a video of Young @ Heart Chorus in action ... however, something inside made me revisit them - and I am glad I did.

When the Young@ Heart began in 1982 the members all lived in an elderly housing project in Northampton, MA called the Walter Salvo House. The first group included elders who lived through both World Wars. One of the members had fought in the Battle of the Somme as a 16 year old and another, Anna Main, lost her husband in the First World War. Anna was a stand-up comic who at 88 told jokes that only she could get away with. She sang with the chorus until she was 100.

By 1983 the original group was ready to create their first stage production. They enlisted the support of Roy Faudree from No Theater to stage “Stompin’ at the Salvo”. The show sold out four times and brought in a broad cross section of younger and older people from the community. It also brought new performers.

In 1996 No Theater was in Rotterdam performing in the annual R Festival. Roy asked the organizers about the theme for the next year’s festival. When he discovered that it was Forever Young, he told the organizers about Young@Heart and plans began to bring the group over to Europe. This was the first time they would create a stage production that just included members of the chorus. Mixing songs and costumes from past shows with some new music they created “Road to Heaven” staged by No Theater. The response was phenomenal and the chorus went on to 12 more tours of Europe, Australia and Canada from 1997-2004.

The current performers in Young@Heart range in age from 71 to 88. There are some with prior professional theater or music experience, others who have performed extensively on the amateur level, and some who never stepped onto a stage before turning eighty. None of the current performers of Y@H were part of the original group that formed in 1982, but they have kept alive the spirit of the early pioneers and continue to push the group into glorious new directions.

The spirit found within Young @ Heart can totally rejuvenate you on a day when you are beaten down, or just feel old. I am inspired by Young @ Heart and - after taking a moment to watch the videos below - I hope you are too.





And finally - the video i posted a while back. The performer here is Fred Knittle, who suffers from congestive heart failure. This song was intended to be a duet between Fred and another chorus member, Bob Salvini. Sadly, Bob died of a heart attack and it was left to Fred to carry the song on his own. If I'm correct, the people you see crying at 01:13 are Bob's family. The lady you occasionally see mouthing the lyrics in the audience is Fred's wife. This is powerful.




http://www.youngatheartchorus.com/

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Latest Addiction



People wonder what I listen to
when not immersed in the Rock of the 80s
... and here's my latest addiction!


MIDNIGHT JUGGERNAUTS is a band from Australia and they mix electronica, dance and new wave elements into one seamless audio trip! These guys are destined to do for electronic music in Australia what Daft Punk did in France a decade ago...

Earlier this month (August 4) they released their debut CD "Dystopia" in their homeland only - and all I've been able to do is listen to their songs on My Space for now ... but as soon as I can, this disc is mine to wear thin!!

Click the CD cover above to hear four of their tracks for yourself - especially enjoy INTO THE GALAXY (very modern version of Electric Light Orchestra) and SHADOWS (a mix of electro-godfather Patrick Cowley with modern beats)

Mark my words: Midnight Juggernauts are going far!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We Pause For This Commercial Break


After such a deep entry, I decided to share some interesting clips that I've found while fishing in the pond that is YouTube. These slices of life come from local Philly TV in the 1980s and can easily trigger some crazy flashbacks! Enjoy :)

look - it's the 80s sweater brigade with KYW's infamous gay anchor, Jerry Penacoli



check out this SHARP outfit she has on ... SHARP MEANS FASHION!



ah ... the vet. one could spend a day just trying to find their seat!



of course - we all remember Night Flight!



and who can forget good ol' Ben and his yellow Rolls Royce (and desire to have hookers hang all over him - LOL)!



Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Full Circle

I remember reading once that those who give the best relationship advice, tend to be single people. I’ve believed that, since I have been single most of my adult life and always offer sound tips on how to handle relationships.

Over time I realized that one of the reasons I was able to share such pearls, was due to my ability to be detached from many of life’s emotional experiences. I’ve always been one to look at the practical side of things – versus reacting or processing situations from an emotional plateau.

With the exception of a codependent and draining life experience, I’ve been single since 1986. That odd experience – which I refuse to call it a relationship, even though people classified us as boyfriends at the time – lasted a few years, cost me well over ten thousand dollars and hundreds of hours filled with emotional heartache. It did one good thing however. It showed me some major flaws in my character and allowed me to see how not to win a heart.

Since that faded away – thanks mostly to my own internal and spiritual growth – I’ve become at peace over the concept that I am simply a single man. I’ve gone through cycles in my life where I longed for the companionship of another man to where I simply found my fulfillment through my circle of friends and my social outlets.

However, a decade or so ago – just years after I moved back to South Street in the 90s – I stumbled upon a human spirit that intrigued me; his energy, his passion for music and life was quite similar to my own. He was one of the few people that, whilst in my presence, took such command that I locked up and said nothing.

Grant it, he was in a relationship anyway – so with the exception of just befriending him – there wasn’t much more that I could, or would, do.

Years went by and we traveled in the same circles – each within one or two degrees of separation from the other.

I always pined for this man – but never spoke aloud my feelings. Partly due to his situation and mostly because I just assumed it would be a useless task.

A month or so ago, we crossed paths, thanks to an opportunity that placed him in my world. Following that experience, in casual conversation, he revealed how strong his feelings have been towards me for oh so many years.

I could barely breathe. The spirit who, deep inside I craved, craved me. We had a marathon conversation over instant message, where we explored our pasts – and realized just how connected we have always been.

From that moment, it has been a whirlwind experience. I, a self-proclaimed independent, detached, unemotional sort, have allowed myself the refreshing – no, exhilarating experience of a pure and cleansing emotional shower.

There are moments when I feel as if I am being excavated … gingerly dusted off after years of being buried in layers of internal fears and frustrations. As with a paleontologist, he has steady hands and a passion and desire to preserve. I am grateful for his patience.

And, as much as I have been proud of my professional life, I've realized that I was lacking pride in my personal world ... thanks to John's love and understanding, I now am comfortably proud of ME, completely.

For the first time in 20 years I have allowed myself to be cared for by someone. For the first time in 20 years I have allowed myself to be intimately appreciated by someone. For the first time in 20 years I have allowed myself to be loved by someone.

Most importantly, for the first time in 20 years, I have allowed myself to love someone in return.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day: My Dad


HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!

my first time on a chopper - with Dad in red and my godfather in the leather jacket - circa 1963/64

Although my father passed away 14 years ago, I still carry him in my heart and think of him often.

Many people don't know that I am, in fact, a junior. Robert Drake Sr. was born in 1939 and was always the rebel. A lot of my personality comes from my father - he was into music and the radio industry and, after my parents divorced when I was 6, he remained a bachelor - living the independent life as wonderfully as he could. Although connected to his brother's family tree, my father's family was comprised of his circle of friends; just like me.

He was always there to help others - he made some incredible friends while hanging at a bar and was respectful of those that showed him respect. He was a biker, a mechanic, an event promoter, a showman, and a loyal friend to many.

I am proud to carry on many of his traits in my day to day life.

So Happy Father's Day Dad... I'm sure you're pretty proud of me too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tales of the City, Reunited

It was the summer of 1980 and I remember discovering a bookstore in Center City that became my home away from home - it was Giovanni's Room. What began on South Street in the early 1970s moved to the corner of 12/Pine streets and quickly established itself as the epicenter of the local lesbian and gay community.

The first 'gay' book I ever read was Tales of the City, written by Armistead Maupin. The book came out (no pun intended) back in 1978 but it wasn't until the summer of '80 when I was first introduced to the spirits and personalities that climbed the stairs of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco.

When I discovered Tales, Maupin's second volume was just being released; More Tales of the City. By then I, along with millions of other readers worldwide, were connecting to life in the City by the Bay.

I absorbed every word that Maupin wrote as if it was being sent by wire, direct from the West Coast to me, filling me in with the daily antics of friends I never met but knew deeply. I learned about live, love and all the precautions that surround things like anger, forgiveness and resentment.

As each book came out - there were five official volumes in the series, although many consider Sure of You the sixth - I was amazed at how much my world ran parallel to the world that laid within the covers of each book. Sure, there were unique differences; but the emotions were just as strong, the passions just as pure and the painful reality of aging, or not having a chance to, just as painfully real.

When I first got word that Maupin was going to write a new novel that, although not an official volume in the series, but lovingly titled Michael Tolliver Lives, my heart bounced. Michael Tolliver was the central character to Tales and it was like hearing from an old friend - - something that happens all too infrequently these days.

According to Maupin, the cover of his new novel is meant to look cheerful but battered, a hopeful survivor of the 70s like its protagonist. The book was released June 12 - a day that the Mayor of San Francisco proclaimed "Michael Tolliver Day"

Yesterday morning I received my copy of the novel while at work - and like a dieter avoiding sweets - it took all my will to not push aside my To Do list and just sit at my desk and dive in!

Today being Saturday, I blocked out a few hours and opened the book.

WOW.

For those of you who have never read the Tales series - or never watched the PBS/Showtime mini-series based on the first few volumes - the following might seem a bit ... odd, but humor me. :)

The title tells you the story - Michael "Mouse" Tolliver is alive and breathing by the Bay. At first Maupin lays out the current state of Michael's life and - just as Maupin said in an interview recently - slowly the colorful cast enters the storyline as natural as life is. You are reunited with some and sadly, brought up to speed on the passing of others.

With the turn of each page you realize that a family tree is only as strong as its roots. And, just as magically as Maupin did through the 1980s, you experience a wide range of emotions during the read.

I truly did not put this book down upon opening it. I laughed OUT LOUD at a few parts and was brought to tears by others. It's as if I've caught up with old friends ... people I missed who kept me sane during an insane period of my life.

At one point - Maupin quotes the ever-mystical Anna Madrigal, when commenting on growing old: "You don't have to keep up, dear. As long as you keep open."

Truer words were never spoken.

This book is an affirmation of growing older and wiser and a wonderful read - even if you've never set 'foot' inside 28 Barbary Lane.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Am He And He Is Me

Some of you may be familiar with Robert Rodi from some of his previous books--1991's "Fag Hag" being the most infamous. Many have said that Rodi is one of the funniest and most prolific of gay authors writing today. His new book 'When You Were Me' is sure to reinforce his already wonderful reputation and I spent some down time this weekend breezing through the review copy I received at work.

The novel centers on Jack Ackerly - who, at 53, has a life that many simply dream about; independently weathly, Jack has the time to do whatever he wants. Frustratingly, Jack only wants to relive his youth.

Enter a few juicy players - including a steamy 26-year old named Corey - and next thing you know, with the help of a scattered new age witch named Francesca, they are offered the chance to switch bodies. To both of their surprises, the spell works, and they go their separate ways.

Jack (now Corey) initially tries to party like the 26 year old his body tells him he is, but finds that his maturity and experience gets in the way. Corey (now as Jack) tries to cope with Jack's severe allergies, tries to go on a workout regime to tone up Jack's otherwise-healthy body, and tries to step into Jack's life with his acquaintances that Jack had briefed him on.

There are some great moments in the light read - including a great twisted ending! I easily see this as PERFECT beach reading this summer ... even if you have no intention to step out on the sands. Nicely recommended.

But reading this book got me thinking - if I could, would I swap my body and life with that of a young hot thang?

A knee-jerk reaction is Hells-No! I did that once and I don't want to do it again ... but what if I did do it again, but with all the knowledge I have now embedded within my head? Would it make the experience any different? Would I live through my 20s differently the second time around?

What about you - would you?

Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment ... you don't need to have a Blogger account to post a comment here...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The End of The End of The End of An Era

This Sunday marks the end of an era - actually, it marks the end of the end of the end of an era as the building that once housed JC Dobbs will host its last live music show, as the current owner has sold the property and the new owners plan to make it a clothing boutique.

However, the reason it's an end of an end, etc. is because the 'era' truly ended in 1996, when JC Dobbs closed its doors. The new owners gave the club a (some might say unneeded) facelift and reopened as The Pontiac Grill.

Last year The Pontiac, after haphazardly trying several different approaches, gave up and closed - ending live music at 304 South Street. Then they opened - without any heart - and hosted occasional, one-off gigs ... this Saturday night they will host their final gig ... finally.

Some are sad to see the transformation from music club to clothing store. Personally, I felt that sadness when Dobbs left the strip - and the big D that hung over the stage and its patrons, was taken down and stored away.

Since then the space had no personality. It tried ... actually it didn't try; individual promoters tried to create scenes there ... the club owners constantly derailed any motivation by shifting plans and visions.

As it stands now - with the exception of the TLA (or the Fillmore Philadelphia at the TLA ... whatever), South Street is a void for live music.

I never thought that the street that I grew up on; the street that Grendel's Lair, Ripley, Dobbs, 218, Abilene's, along with a few others once called home - would be so silent.

So, as we inch closer to the final END OF AN ERA, I wanted to share some interesting video clips of a happier time...

The first clip is the most interesting - sadly it cannot be embedded - so check it out! It's a chat with the former owner of JC Dobbs John Travis, as he talks about the very early days of Dobbs & performers such as The Stray Cats & George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=xzPHJSTdbL4

Goodbye to live music at 304 South Street - it was fun while it lasted!

Robert Hazard at JC Dobbs / 1983?



Elvis Presley (a.k.a. Kenn Kweder) at JC Dobbs / 1989 (this was an incredible night!!)



Nirvana at JC Dobbs / 1989



Tool at JC Dobbs / 1992

Monday, May 28, 2007

RIP Charles Nelson Reilly

Charles Nelson Reilly, who acted and directed on Broadway but came to be best known for his campy television appearances on talk shows and "Match Game," died on Friday (5/25) in Los Angeles. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his partner, Patrick Hughes, who is his only immediate survivor. Mr. Reilly had been ill for more than a year, he said.

Although he had a career before his days as a game-show staple in the 1970s and 1980s, Charles - complete with his ascots, oversize spectacles and over-the-top penchant for double-entendres, was a key to my growing up years. I watched him work - listened to how he delivered lines and learned all about timing.

Both Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde taught me a lot about quality wit and comedic humor - and more importantly, how to laugh, even when faced with frustration or ridicule.

Charles Nelson Reilly - I salute you.



if the embedded video doesn't load, the direct link is

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjxUpX09JEM

Young@Heart

So, this Memorial Day Weekend I've spent mostly in air conditioned comfort - to try to balance the discomfort from allergies gone wild. I was doing some bookmark housekeeping online, and discovered a clip I had saved - and I can see why.

Young@Heart is a documentary produced by Channel 4 in the UK last fall. It followed the Young@Heart chorus as they prepare for their new show, 'Alive and Well' which will be performed before an audience of a thousand in their home town of Northampton, Massachusetts.

What makes Young@Heart unique is that the average age of the choir members is 80 - and they perform current and classic songs from Outkast, The Clash, Nirvana and more.

In the course of the film, an intimate, moving and often hilarious portrait emerges of an extraordinary group of people who may be old in body but refuse to grow old in spirit. This particular clip from the documentary was (for me) the most stirring moment of the entire program ... and the program had many stirring moments indeed.

The performer here is Fred Knittle, who suffers from congestive heart failure. This song was intended to be a duet between Fred and another chorus member, Bob Salvini. Sadly, Bob died of a heart attack shortly before and it was left to Fred to carry the song on his own.

From what I've gathered, the people you see crying at 01:13 are Bob's family. The lady you occasionally see mouthing the lyrics in the audience is Fred's wife.

There were some very touching scenes where we see Fred rehearsing alone soon after Bob's death. It is an incredible film and this is a wonderful rendition of a powerful song.


Friday, May 25, 2007

The Video Vault


May has turned into a hectic month and I for one am grateful that Memorial Day Weekend is upon us ... I need to catch up with myself!

Recently a friend shared a video clip with me, which triggered a folder of memories - the star of the clip was the late, great Mama Cass. Now, I'm not going to teach you about Ms. Cass - she's well worth the read if you are unfamiliar - but my post is about just how important Mama Cass was to me and to little gay boys like me in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

My first memory of Mama Cass was within my father's record collection. Just looking at her made me see how unique and different she was, compared to pop stars of the time. Here was this big girl who dressed brightly and boldy and did not let her shape stand in the way. I remember connecting to that - but not knowing quite why.

I really got into Mama Cass when I was around 6-8 years of age (1969-71). My parents had divorced and my mother and I moved into a home in West Philly as a temporary step - it was owned by two 'aunts' of mine (not blood related) who were the hippest and coolest adults I knew at that point. Aunt Rita and Aunt Sandy let me listen to whatever music I wanted - swing in the huge Macramé chair that was bolted to the ceiling - and help out at the sandwich shop they owned at the corner.

Years later I would realize that Rita and Sandy were lesbians - at the time tho, they were just cool. I remember being enrolled in a public school where I was the only white kid in the class.

Different never was so clear to me as it was during that moment.

Even at a young age, I took advantage of the situation; parents split up - everything in disarray, distractions abound. I would go out of my way to avoid school - sick, lonely, tired. Whatever card I could play to convince my already exhausted mother that I couldn't - WOULDN'T - go back to that horrible school.

When I think back - I realize the times played a bigger role than I had thought. Up til then, I grew up in NE section of Philadelphia and spent my kindergarden year in an all-white class. I really hadn't met a black person, with exception to my Nana's housekeeper, who came to help her care for the house where I grew up.

Being pulled out of the only home you knew - seperated from my father and tossed into a new neighborhood that was completely DIFFERENT than anything you had seen ... then entering a school where you are the only white kid in the first grade classroom ... it was a lot to take in.

But I don't regret it one bit. Living with Aunts Rita and Sandy allowed me to learn to appreciate our black neighbors as simply human beings. Rita and Sandy took the time to teach me about stereotypes and to show me how to accept and respect.

Not only others, but myself.

They also allowed me to explore my love for Mama Cass.

I remember the first time I heard this song:



The record ended and I just sat there - a 7-year old gay boy, stuck in a whole new world, all alone but at the same time totally understanding just what it was I had to do.

This song makes me cry til this day. It spoke to me as a kid and Mama Cass became MY Mama at that point. I realized that she was singing to those who felt DIFFERENT. I soaked it up.

I convinced my Aunts to take me to see Pufnstuf - a movie based on the TV show H.R. Pufnstuf ... a truly stoned out of their friggin minds kids show. Pufnstuf the movie came out in 1970 and starred Mama as Witch Hazel and I just HAD to see it!

We went and I was floooooooored. Especially when Mama took to the screen - during this performance, I knew that Mama was singing directly to me.



When I learned about Mama's death in the summer of 1974, I was devatated. At 11 years old, I felt the pain of loss for the first time. But I remember that moment and I remember thinking to myself that I couldn't let Mama down. I had to be strong and continue to be proud of who I was, no matter how different I felt.

Cass Elliot was one of the strongest planks in the early years of my foundation - and she remains close to my heart to this day.

Mama had such a way with notes - with lyrics - with me.

In 1996 everything came together for me, my world and Mama Cass - all thanks to an incredible film called 'Beautiful Thing'.

Beautiful Thing focuses on three neighbors, Jamie, Steve (Ste) and Leah on Thamesmead Estate in south-east London. In the middle flat, Jamie lives with his pub manager mom, Sandra. Next door lives Ste, sporty and good looking, with his brother and alcoholic father. The atmosphere is tense at the best of times. On the other side live Leah and her mom. Leah has been kicked out of school and passes her time listening to old records and has become obsessed with the music of the Mamas and the Papas and particularly with Mama Cass. Jamie and Ste fall in love, much to the frustration of those around - 'cept Leah. Showing you this scene will not spoil the movie, since it is such a wonderfully-painful story that uses the voice of Mama Cass throughout to emphasise that being different is okay.

At this point in the movie, Jamie and Ste have had enough and finally show their love publicly in the courtyard as Leah (as usual) blasts Mama Cass records from her flat. Leah steps out - joined shortly by Jamie's mom - and watch the boys as they stand tall and embrace just how different they are - and in reality, just how same.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sex in the 70s

Today I had the chance to finally watch GAY SEX IN THE 70s -- a hypnotic documentary exploring the NYC scene through the 1970s and into the early/mid 80s.

Although not part of the 1970s sexual revolution, I stepped onto the Sexual dance floor during its final hour and watched the beat slowly fade away and along with it the carefree atmosphere that was the gay community that had, just a few years earlier, welcomed me with open arms.

So, I popped this DVD in, not knowing just what to expect. I know the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival had screened it last year; but I was unable to see it ... everywhere I went afterwards, people kept asking me if I had seen it ... now I understand why.

WOW.

This documentary really explores the emotions behind the sexual liberation that the gay male community experienced in the 70s. Instead of just documenting what happened, it gets the story first hand from those that were there - and helps the viewer understand the process the community was experiencing; why we exploded so fast and also the common thread between the network of friends in the 70s and how those networks helped form the activist movement in the 1980s, specifically surrounding the AIDS pandemic.

For me - it was comforting to see video and film of some of the clubs and bars I used to go to back then... I felt like I was watching family videos, since in many ways this WAS my family. The bars, the Village, the piers. Nights at The Saint and weekends at Saint Marks Baths. They even featured The Anvil - a place I went to quite often ... in fact, I still have the keychain they gave out at the club's entrance!

Here's the trailer for GAY SEX IN THE 70s



Watching this documentary opened a flood of personal memories - at the end, they interview kids (i.e. 25 or so) today about 'The 70s' and it's interesting to hear their comments while the credits roll. Afterwards, the screen goes black - then comes back to one of the men who shared their story through the documentary.

The director is off camera and asks him, so what do you miss most about the 70s? To which he pauses - looks into the camera - and says 'My friends. I miss my friends the most.'

I lost it - partly because it was a touching moment, but mostly because I totally get what he's saying. Ever since the bottom fell out in my world back then, I don't think I ever recovered. I've shifted from having a deep meaningful circle of friends to being completely absorbed by my career and side projects. Not because I need to be, but because I choose to be. I've developed such a fear of bonding with someone that, when not out and about, I keep to myself most the time. Most of my friends today understand that - and know that's just the way it is.

Sometimes I wonder.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Audio Flashback

OMG

So, I was up in Maine this weekend to celebrate my Nana's 100th birthday -- in the last year she finally entered a care facility, since her knees are no longer able to get her around on her own (but she still has her wit, vigor and memory!).

Anyway - once she went into her new home, my uncle and his family had the responsibility to clean out her apartment and distribute her belongings to the family ... in the midst of that process, Jack came across a cassette that I had given Nana back when I was just 17.

IT IS MY VERY FIRST AIR CHECK!!!!

It was recorded in MAY 1981 as I was doing the overnight shift at WCSD-FM in Warminster, PA ... the format was anything goes overnight - so I would bring my records and do my shift from 1-6am each Tuesday morning.

Jack didn't tell me he found the cassette - instead he had it transferred onto CD and presented the disc to me this weekend ... I WAS BLOWN AWAY!! The funniest thing is when I started playing the disc, I didn't even recognize me ... thank God I got rid of that silly Philly accent.

Anyway - I wanted to share it with you - I put it up on Wiki ... since it's free ... just click this link, then click the brown DOWNLOAD FILE button - you'll have to enter in a security code and then the file will play in your browser, thanks to Quicktime.

For those wondering WCSD began broadcasting on Sept 6, 1976, a 10-watt radio station located at the former William Tennent High School on Street Road. Its call letters are the initials of the station's original owner, the Centenial School District.

In 1980 the station license was transfered from the School District to the Bux-Mont Educational Radio Association and the station relocated to the basement of the Warminster Township Building/Police Department at Henry and Gibson Avenues in Warminster, Pennsylvania. It began operations there on May 15, 1980 after a 16 month period of silence. In 1981 it increased power to 200 watts and in 1986 changed call letters to WRDV which stand for "Radio in the Delaware Valley."

Enjoy this flashback to Robert Drake, at age 17!!

http://www.wikiupload.com/download_page.php?id=139583

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Drake Matriarch


Tonight I am on WXPN until 11pm and then a quick dash home to regroup, grab a short nap, and head off to the airport for a 6am flight to Bar Harbor, Maine (via Boston). I'm heading up there to see the Drakes, but mostly to join in celebrating my Nana's 100th birthday on Sunday!

Ethel Drake has always been a powerful rock for the Drake family ... born in 1907 in Philadelphia, she met her husband-to-be while training to become a nurse; he was a young doctor and together they married and had two boys, in 1936 (Uncle Jack) and 1939 (my dad, Robert Sr.) ... my grandfather went off to Europe to serve as a a doctor in WWII and Nana and her boys managed to live on their own, like thousands of other mothers during those years.

Upon his return, they bought a home and he began a private practice. Sadly my grandfather passed away in the 1950s and Nana was left to raise her boys alone - something she had practice with, thanks to the War.

I was born in 1963 and lived in Nana's house with my mom and dad until first grade, when my parents split and I moved with mom to NE Philly. With me and my parents out of the house - Nana decided to sell both her home as well as her summer cottage in Somers Point NJ and join her other son Jack in Maine ... he had moved up there in the mid-60s.

She's been there ever since and began another chapter as great-grandmother as Jack's kids had kids and - for the most part - all decided to claim Maine as their home, albeit different towns. Jack and Nana remained in Bar Harbor - that is until Jack's kids all left the big house and he, just like Nana, decided to sell and build a smaller space for his wife and himself to retire to ... a great spot, still on Mt. Desert Island, but away from the 'hustle' of Bar Harbor's tourism trade.

So - Nana.

Nana has been a widow for over 50 years. Let that sit for a minute.

She has learned how to be the strong, independent element in our family - which shined brightly during moments of family strife, such as the divorce of both of her sons to their first wives. Jack remarried - my dad never did. He too was an independent spirit and between them both, I believe that is where I got much of the personality I have today. Very independent and very much a solo traveler through life.

When Nana was in her 80s she was in charge of feeding the elderly throughout the Downeast region of Maine - she ran the Meals On Wheels program for the shut-ins and it was always amusing to listen to her vent about these 'old folks' when in fact many were younger than she. She lived in her own apartment until last year, when faced with the reality that it was becoming too much of a challenge, she agreed to move into a nursing home that overlooks the bay.

She has faced some major obsticles; buring both her husband and her youngest son (my dad) being the hardest I'm sure. Over the past decade, Nana took a fall and broke her hip at 90, but came through and healed (almost unheard of at that age!). She faced major internal bleeding and was near death twice - but pulled through each time. Her wit is strong and her memory, although fading, is still there. She no longer gets around without a wheelchair, but she is surrounded by the love of the Drake clan, as well as a ton of island friends.

I know she is looking forward to seeing me - probably more than I am to see her, since I know that this might be the last time I see her. She was truly my rock in my childhood - when everything else in my young life was falling apart, Nana was there. She kept me strong and showed me how to grow. She taught me values that I carry to this day. She is an amazing person and I owe much of who I have become to my Nana, Ethel Drake.

So, Happy 100th Birthday Nana!! You are an incredible spirit and I am humbled to carry the family name along for my ride here...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring Has Sprung

So, after what was the dullest, yet neverending winter season I can recall - spring has finally sprung over Philadelphia this weekend. Sunny skies and afternoon highs around 80 each day.

It's amazing what a change in weather can do to a community. As I sit at my desk in my bedroom, I face a window that looks out, over the roof of Fat Tuesday and down Passyunk Avenue. Cars are lined up as far as I can see - always a sure sign that the weather has changed for the better ... since the only time one sees this many cars at once during winter is if it's a Saturday night.

As for me, I spent much of this first weekend of spring indoors. Knowing that everyone and their brother would be out soaking in the day, I found solice in a quiet home and decided to open the windows and let the house exhale the stale air of winter and breathe in the fresh scent of spring.

While at my desk, I've also noticed a family of bumblebees traveling past my window to my roof - the assumption is that they are building a nest under my roof deck. Grant it, I know that bumblebees rarely sting (only if their nest is being threatened) so I am not concerned - however it is truly fascinating to watch these creatures at work - up and down - past my 3rd floor window - toiling away for the Queen. In a month or so, most of these bumblebees will be dead.

Really puts things into perspective.

When reading up on bumblebees, I learned some interesting facts (I've added my two cents, naturally):

The adult male bumblebee (in common with most adult male insects) has only one function in life - that is to mate. (just like a man!) He will fly in a circuit depositing a queen-attracting scent (CK 1) in suitable places (Woody's), usually in the morning, and replacing the scent if it rains.

New queens emerge about a week or so after the males (they're on gay time). The new queens leave the nest to forage for themselves, returning to the nest for shelter, but they do not add to the existing nest provisions. (talk about coasting!) When the new queen is ready to mate she flies to where the attractant chemical has been deposited by the male and waits for a suitable mate (I wonder if she can turn down nonsutable mates?). Then the two mate. (what, no foreplay?!)

Bumblebees queens generally mate only once, though Bombus hypnorum sometimes has multiple mates (she's what ya call a bumble ho').
Not all nests go on to produce males and queens, many fail in the early stages, some are damaged, and some never build up enough reserves to produce reproductives.

Some nests produce only queens (they are located in Chelsea), others only males (ditto), and some nests produce both males and queens (disaster in the making, or another reality series for Bravo). By this time the old queen is almost bald
(hahaha- I got nuttin) and may have lost some of her influence over the persistent or larger workers (so she goes to the local gay dive bar in search of a $pecial $omeone), then gradually the stores dwindle and the remaining workers and old queen die. (roll credits).



I never thought bumblebees were so fascinating.


Happy Spring, Y'all!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Reading Rainbow For A Stormy Sunday



As anyone in the Greater Philadelphia region - strike that - the mid-Atlantic region ... ah, screw it. As anyone east of the Mississippi knows - today was a washout as a late-season Nor'easter barreled its way through the area dumping a flood of water in its path. I went to bed last night with the thought that I would spend this day trapped inside productively, by cleaning my room and reorganizing my closets which is long overdue.

Besides a sea of t-shirts and unworn items from years past, my little room also plays host to a 30 pound box of Dum-Dum pops, 100 feet of hot pink plastic wrap and 10 pounds of pink beaded necklaces (all for this Friday's pink party) among other unique items. So, I needed to get a hold of the room as it has totally gotten a hold of me over the winter.

However, that was not to be - I woke with pelts of rain hitting the windows - the roof overflowing the drain spout above me (I'm on the top floor) and a waterfall cascading down the back of the house, but not before bouncing off my aluminum siding windowsill outside. Talk about water torture!

I got up - used the bathroom and crawled back into bed, allowing the sensations of the storm around me to take control of my environment - - i even cracked open my bedroom window a bit, to better hear the rain and smell the wetness in the air. Then I decided to pick up a book that was on top of a stack of recent review copies that I brought home from work.

That was 8am. I read all day and into the night, never leaving my room except for short bathroom breaks. No morning coffee - no breakfast or lunch or what have you. Just some water and millions of words on thousands of pages. I read 6 books today and I'm into my 7th - but it was 9pm - thirteen hours later - and I decided to take a break and go get something to eat - I called in a 'pick-up' order at my local Chinese restaurant, because I felt like I needed to step outside at least once today. So, now I'm enjoying some brown rice and lemon chicken and afterward, I'll hop back into my personal Reading Rainbow until it is time to sleep.

But I also wanted to post quick reviews of what I read today - mostly for myself, but perhaps for you as well.

Mississippi Sissy
by Kevin Sessums


Author Sessums is best known for his celebrity profiles in the pages of Vanity Fair and Allure. He was also executive editor of Interview magazine back in the day. This book is a memoir of his childhood — growing up gay in the deep south in the 60's in an America struggling with civil rights strife and the assassinations of a president, a cultural leader and a would-be president. Kevin Sessums was orphaned at the age of 8 with the sudden deaths of his father (accident) and a year later mother (cancer). This book chronicles that loss, along with the awkward journey of a young gay adolescent, yet Sessums' experience is framed by a disarming wit and the lush and racially-charged backdrop of rural Mississippi, that in turn provide the route for a young gay man searching for a way out. A wonderful read that was truly hard to put down!


Men Who Love Men
by William J. Mann


This book picks up from Mann's previous novel The Men From The Boys (although you don't have to read the others to read this) - it follows the story of Henry Weiner, who is facing the 'shoulder season' of gay life by slowly leaving the young years and entering that dreaded middle age bracket. His best friends Jeff and Lloyd have been together for years and are planning to finally marry outside the guesthouse that they own (and that Henry manages) in P-town. Twists and turns happen in this fast-paced tale of love, understanding and friendship. With Men Who Love Men, Mann tackles the big questions of contemporary gay life, delivering a beautiful, thoughtful book about love, sex, commitment, friendship, and fantasy, about the lives we engineer and the joyful surprises that happen when we least expect them. I really enjoyed this book and stared at the ending page for a few minutes once done, just basking in a good story.


Still Life With June
by Darren Greer


I've had this book for some time and just got to reading it - in online research I see it won a few awards in 2004, the year it was published. And well deserved, I'm sure. Still Life with June is the fictional story of a struggling author, Cameron Dodds, and the unraveling mysteries surrounding his life and the people he encounters. Included are: Dagina, a woman from his writers' group; Darrel, a deceased drug addict from the treatment center Cameron works at; and Darrel's estranged sister, June, a woman with Down syndrome now living at the Sisters of Good Hope care facility. This is one of the best novels I have read in years. It is utterly original, with something unexpected happening on practically every page. The author has written it in a fully unusual style, with short chapters, sometimes only a sentence or two, stories within stories, and lists. And the ending is terrific.


The Suburbanization Of New York
edited by Jerilou and Kingsley Hammett


As a lifelong Philadelphian, I cringe when I see some of the history of our city wiped away for the shining promise of the future. As many of you who read this know, I have a torch for South Street as it used to be - but realize that everything changes. This collection of essays was a charming yet frustrating read for me - since it explores the slow erasing of New York City. Anyone who has protested things like the Casinos coming to Philadelphia - or perhaps the rise and fall of mega-chains in our city would appreciate this book, which features some of NYC's smartest (and wittiest) analysts and activists and gives a spotlight on the city that never sleeps, before it began its current suburban nap.


Lipshitz 6 Or The Angry Blondes
by T Cooper


This book is unlike any turn-of-the-century immigrant novel I have ever encountered and T Cooper is unlike any author I have every read. The first part is simple enough. in 1907, Esther Lipshitz and her family arrive on Ellis Island from Russia, ready to start a new life. Unfortunately, things get off to a bad start when their blond, non-Jewish looking son Reuven is lost getting off the boat. Years go by and Esther comes to believe that the man who just accomplished the first trans-Atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh, is her son. Esther's life becomes so consumed with this belief that she spirals more and more into her fantasy world and leaves her family behind.

We then fast forward more than half a century and we meet T Cooper, the great-grandson of Esther Lipshitz. Much like Esther, T idolizes another blond, the rapper Eminem. T is putting off writing a book by instead hosting bar and bat mitzvahs impersonating the famous rapper when a letter arrives in the mail that his parents were killed in a car accident. While in Texas for the funeral, T does some growing-up however, once back in New York, T is again the entertainer Slim Lindy, until an accident brings to life an even more confusing identify issue.The two parts of this book are so completely different that it's hard to imagine they were written by the same person. However, as written elsewhere in an online review, 'while Esther's story makes for a good book club discussion, T's part of the book is what will keep the reader remembering'. How true indeed!


Waiting For Snow In Havana
by Carlos Eire


Another book I've had around but never read - this tells the personal journey of Carlos Eire who was part of Operation Peter Pan. Shortly after the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1962, 14,000 children were airlifted out of Cuba to start new lives in the United States. This forgotten episode of American history was called Operation Pedro Pan. It was an appropriate codename. Whisked away from parents and home, forced to negotiate immigration procedures and foster care in a strange new land, these children must have felt like the lost boys of J. M. Barrie’s classic tale. One of these children was Carlos Eire and this award winning book is his memoir of loss and redemption. What a powerful read that personalizes a forgotten chapter of 20th century American history.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

An Audio Flashback



So in searching some various sites that I check up on every so often ... I stumbled upon this audio flashback (Real Audio required) - it's from a site that celebrates classic radio air checks - and totally a flashback for anyone old enough to remember ...

While exploring the site I found this Philadelphia radio composite - You’ll hear an assortment of Philly radio stations recorded in January 1977 - all scoped (songs/spots edited out) - the coolest thing is that this flashback taked place when I was a freshman in high school and listened to all of these stations constantly .. a special moment is hearing JIM O'BRIEN once again ... soooo good.

On this feed you'll hear what was certainly the first BIG FM station in Philly, WIFI 92 - you’ll also hear WFIL, WIBG and more. Plus a great spot for the WFIL Gold LP series ... complaining how LPs are now $6 bucks!!!

Gotta love how diverse pop music was then - rock, disco, soul ... all crammed together - and in that classic radio style ... talk after EVERY song! Also when you listen to the WFIL and WIBG portions you can TOTALLY see how tight the playlist was with their format (two words: Mary McGregor; grant it her hit Torn Between Two Lovers was a few weeks away from being Number One in America)

Plus there are TONS of dated references by the jocks ... and you gotta love how excited callers get to win $20!

It's great radio and a wonderful audio flashback to Philly when I was 13 :)

Brings a tear o' joy to this DJ's heart!! ;)

http://airchexx.com/ram/2005/July/1977-philly-composite.ram

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Thoughts

So I finally found myself in a situation where I had a weekend to myself ... no plans, no events, no commitments.

I spent Saturday on an exploration of Center City Philadelphia - found a new coffee house uptown, where I sat with a big cup and a tuna salad and read for an hour while watching the city pass by. I walked through town and had impromtu conversations with strangers about nothing and everything all at once. This morning (Sunday) I woke, showered and had breakfast at a spot I've never had breakfast at before. The weather today is clear and cool - a perfect March Sunday weather.

Later today I might walk into Old City and explore the selection of vinyl over at AKA ... perhaps take my book, pod and pad and go get a drink somewhere different.

It's been refreshing, stepping out from the normal groove that I follow day in, day out. I've met some new faces, had some interesting conversations and most importantly - enjoyed the peace of mind that can come from time alone.

This week has been somewhat of a roller coaster for me ... last weekend I was hovering close to the edge; a combination of producing Sex Dwarf amidst an ice storm capped off with a messy drunken late night followed by a second party I had to spin the following night - the weekend was exhausting, emotional and draining.

Now top off the week with the current calm, reflective weekend I am experiencing now - and you have quite a ride.

And it's not over yet. :)

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Video Vault #7


This video resonates so strongly with me - and my youth - that I can't even begin to figure out what to say about it. All I remember is playing this LP to DEATH when it came out - this was the anthem to my corner of the world.

In many ways, it still is.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Video Vault #6


Well, after such a serious, heartfelt post as the one prior - I felt it was as good a moment as any to switch gears and deliver another edition of the Video Vault - various clips I have found thanks to the almighty You Tube network!

This one travels back to 1976 - The Miss America Pagent in fact - when longtime host Bert Parks (man, was he the gayest straight man or what?!) decided to pluck a tune from the Top 40 bouquet to perform for America.

Perform is such a strong word .... enjoy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Long Overdue Ramblings

Sunday.

According to many, Sunday is a day of rest. Seems I haven’t done much of that these past weeks. Winter has been a season of advance planning for me; both at work as well as with my personal events. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was recovering from the New Year’s Eve party at Fluid and so much has happened and so much is scheduled to happen over the next several months.

I’ve found myself in a humbling situation where three different fanatical fans of mine have asked for my DJ services for events they are hosting – so I am spinning more this month than ever before. I have been asked to take on a major event in June, and just as the dust settled, another offer comes in for May.

I’ve spent the past weeks thinking and mapping out in great detail how I want to handle the 20th anniversary of Kids Corner. 20 years. January 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of the program as well as my 20th anniversary working at WXPN-FM. That experience also feels like it was just yesterday at times.

So, it seems as if I am constantly working, planning, moving; on the go – however for some strange reason, I am tranquil and at peace with it all.

There are cyclones surrounding me – but the air I breathe is still.

I had someone comment to me recently how cool it must be to be me. I laughed at first – but then I realized that I suppose it is cool. After so many years, I tend to take things for granted. I have a wonderful career. I only do things I enjoy; from working in the radio industry to spinning the music I love, to creating events from scratch that I think would be fun for me and for others.

I have very little stress anymore – frankly, I think I tapped out the stress valve through the 80s while watching my world wither away. When I would recall the memory of a departed friend I used to be sad and regretful … but now those spirits balance me. They make me keep life and living in perspective.

Since fall, I have lost a few more members of my circle, one just this past week. Each passing was sad in itself – but it just emphasized how precious life is – and how one simply cannot waste their breath complaining or worrying about situations. Nothing is as important as now.

In the late 80s psychologists began to realize that many gay men who had been spared the swift death of HIV were experiencing a form of survivor’s guilt, similar to what some soldiers feel post-war, since many of these men had to bury entire circle of friends; which was their ‘family’. At that time I suffered from survivors’ guilt for a while as well – I even went to therapy to help move forward.

Those who know me (or who have read this blog) know that in 1983 I began a memorial diary to keep a record of those I knew who had died of AIDS. I kept that diary until 1996, when after returning from Washington DC, having just viewed the AIDS Quilt, I realized that enough was enough. In the course of those 13 years of having that memorial diary, I entered almost 300 names; from casual barflies and colleagues to close friends and even one lover.

But as heavy as that experience was, it gave me an incredible gift. I learned how to simply appreciate the beauty of life. I realized that there was no reason to raise my voice in anger anymore. There was no reason to wallow in self-pity over a situation. There was no need for stress. Life was, and is, too important to waste a moment.

There are moments when I wonder about my future: how long will I live? Am I where I am supposed to be? Should I do something else? Will I ever be in love with another?

I could shift my life – but that would be a distraction and for what purpose. I am at peace with my world. As for love, some questions are just unanswerable.

There are moments when I wish I had a partner in crime to enjoy this ride that is my life. But then I realize that on every stop of the ride, I connect with someone who is stuck at a crossroad, just waiting for someone to help them clear the air and focus on what’s important. So I do what I do and I feel good and they are thankful.

Had I had a partner in crime – perhaps I wouldn’t be able to assist so many people at their personal crossroads. Perhaps I wouldn’t notice their energy, their need to be.

Perhaps that is why I travel alone.

Alone but not lonely.

So, I am grateful for my world. I am grateful for the thousands of people I have met over the past quarter-century of my existence. Those that just passed through, those that stayed a while and even those that over-stayed their welcome.

I especially am grateful to have known those that have crossed over to a new plane. Perhaps it’s the inner peace I have or the history I hold – but even though they are gone, I don’t miss them.

Because they never left my heart.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Video Vault #5


The Legendary West End Records, founded in 1976 produced some of the most memorable hits from the 70's and 80's. Francis Legge has been making a Documentary to honour Mel CHeren and all the work he has put into the music industry and the world of nightlife. The movie will be coming out later this year so look out for it! But for now - check out this teaser - talk about an education!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Wings of Desire

The year was 1987. For me it was a transitional year since I had just left the world I knew to reside in a world I knew nothing of. One weeknight I snuck back into Center City to attend a screening a film that I had read about - called Wings of Desire. It was a German film, produced by Wim Wenders, who I was already a fan of - thanks to Paris, Texas and Hammett.

Those two hours changed my life and allowed me to begin the process to better understand myself and my path. I was mesmerized by the writing, the acting - the way the film plugs directly into your emotions. I remember being at the Roxy Theatre on Sansom Street watching this movie -- tears just streaming down my face for so many minutes. It was a cleansing experience for me - and each time I watch this film, I cry and I smile; knowing that all is alright.

It showed me that all my friends who have gone are never far away. Anyone I miss can be within my mind at the simple mention of their name. I am always surrounded by the love from my friendly spirits of my past. They help me and guide me through life each and every day.

In case you don't know the story behind Wings of Desire; it is set in Berlin in the late 1980s, toward the end of the Cold War, it follows two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), as they roam the city, unseen and unheard by the people, observing and listening to the diverse thoughts of Berliners. Although Damiel and Cassiel are pure observers, invisible to all but children, and incapable of any physical interaction with our world, one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), begins to fall in love with a circus trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommartin), who is talented, lovely, but profoundly lonely.

Marion lives alone in a trailer, dances alone to the live music of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and drifts through the city.Eventually, Damiel too longs for physicality, and to become human. When he sheds his immortal existence, he experiences life for the first time: he bleeds, sees colors for the first time (the movie before then is filmed in a sepia tinted monochrome, except for brief moments when the angels are not present), tastes food, drinks coffee. Eventually Damiel meets the trapeze artist Marion at a bar, and they greet each other with familiarity as if they had long known each other.

Solveig's character was the one I bonded with the most. Alone with her thoughts and wandering through life with no direction - longing for a sign, a touch... something. She spent her days with a traveling circus only to watch it leave her behind - and spent her nights at new wave and punk clubs - trying to escape from herself, to no avail.

Marion was me.

When Wim decided to put to film a story that he and Solveig (who was his girlfriend at the time) had created - you can bet that I was there on opening night. It was 1991 and the movie was Until the End of the World - which was the ultimate road movie and really two movies in one! Solveig's performance is riveting in this as well and the film itself is an epic (the director's cut is 4.5 hours long) ... but what a way to escape a gloomy Sunday afternoon!

So, it's with sadness that I make this post, acknowleding the sudden passing of Solveig Dommartin at only 45 from a heart attack.

Although I never met her, I feel as if I connected with Solveig in so many ways - she was my virtual friend I leaned on during the hardest years of my adult life ... it was Wim's vision and her performance that gave me hope and showed me a light to guide me during those dark days.

I am grateful that her memory remains on film.

Here are two clips I want to share - the first is when angel Damiel is inside the lonely trailer of Marion, who has just entered after a night's performance. Having just put the needle on the Nick Cave lp, 'The Carny' plays in the background as Marion sits alone with her thoughts - thoughts that Damiel hears and obviously relates to ... this was a powerful moment for me when I first saw the film:



Next is THE performance ... grant it, you lose some of the emotional connection to the movie by seeing this on its own ... but it's so powerful of a scene; when the human Damiel finally comes face to face with the one he desires and she is not at all surprized but instead ready...




Rest in Peace Solveig ... and thank you.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Video Vault #4

It's time for this week's Video Vault - unusual video snippets that trigger memories from my past, thanks to YouTube!

One of the cool television memories for me in the early 1980s was sitting through Saturday Night Live until the end - just so I could watch Karen Scioli, who portrayed Stella, the Maneater From Manayunk, on what was easily one of the gayest local television shows of its time... Saturday Night Dead!

Saturday Night Dead was a television program that hosted B horror films - it began in 1984 and ran until the end of the decade and was a production of KYW-TV Channel 3 in Philadelphia (see last week's Video Vault post!).

Stella delighted in half-clad gorgeous young men and often had one or two hanging in her dungeon awaiting her pleasure. According to her biography, Stella was "born in North Libido, New Jersey, a small village outside of Atlantic City. She is the only child of traveling hecklers. Her parents dropped her in a plastic basket at Fifth and Skunk in front of Guido's Hair Weaving and Plumbing Supplies, but for all intents and purposes she was raised by a flock of pigeons". Reincarnated 37 times, Stella was just your typical "ghoul" next door.

In real life Karen was a South Philly actress and homemaker who weekly donned a pushup bra, slinky black dress, feather boa, false eyelashes and a mole on her right cheek to become the female vampiress. Other regulars on the program were Stella's canopied-bed called "Beda Lugosi" which talked and vibrated; Hives the Butler (Bob Billbrough); and a faceless dungeon monster named Iggy who ate anybody Stella didn't like.

The show was off the scale gay - with innuendos and the like ad-libbed through the skits. Stella was often seen in the gay nightclubs, as she was in high demand to host everything from movie nights to Halloween costume contests at Woody's. During these years, since I was the GM of Au Courant Newsmagazine, I was out taking pictures and quite often Karen and I would be at the same events at night.

Karen is a classy woman and I really enjoyed the time I had with her - she's still around but I've not spoken or seen her in years. Below is the opening of Saturday Night Dead ... note the four bodybuilders that drop Stella off at the corner of 4th and South Streets ... the one with white shorts is my friend James!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Video Vault #3


A couple days late, since I hoped to post my weekly video every Monday, but work is taking control of life.

Moving on - with this post we explore my life-long fascination with local TV newscasts. From the earliest time I remember caring, I was a local TV news fan. I grew up as most Philadelphians did watching the leader - KYW TV 3 (yes folks, Action News wasn't ALWAYS the news leader in Philly) ... and I remember watching Vince Leonard, Mort Crim and Jessica Savitch deliver all the news that I was probably too young to care about. Those that study media refer to that newsteam and those years on KYW as the "Camelot of television news".

As I entered high school, I was introduced to weatherman Bill Kuster, Jack Jones (Philly's first black newsman), and more throughout my formative years as a teenager in Philadelphia. KYW news had also been home to Tom Snyder, who left Philly and moved to the network to host a late-night talk show for NBC called 'Tomorrow', a show I really enjoyed watching as a teen.

I couldn't tell you who was anchoring the news over at WCAU (not many could) and WPVI, which rolled out their new "Action News" format in the early 70s was not on in my house ... funny thing: I remember various friends parents being either an Eyewitness News or an Action News household. It was quite a popular discussion of the day as both KYW and WPVI went back and forth as to who was the local news leader. However, pop culture had its way: the fact was that WPVI had a powerhouse on salary - no, not their anchorman Larry Kane - but their weatherman Jim O'Brien.

Jim O'Brien came to Philadelphia in 1970 to become a disc jockey at the #1 station in the city, WFIL-AM. In 1976 he joined the Action News team as a sports anchor. He soon became the weatherman and became a local legend with his presentation of the weather, being the only Philadelphia area weatherman to use a pointer while on the air. O'Brien woke us up with the number one radio show in the morning on WFIL and then tucked us in on the news at night. O'Brien eventually anchored the Noon newscast, the local edition of Dialing for Dollars and the weekend magazine show Primetime. Sadly, he died during a skydiving accident in September of 1983.

But because of Jim's personality - just about EVERYONE sooner or later gave up watching KYW and moved over to WPVI ... it laid the foundation that Channel 6 has built upon for the past 30 years as a news leader.

But back to KYW - they went back and forth with WPVI in the mid-70s for the #1 newscast until 1977. It was the year that KYW began its freefall from first to worst and tried everything to shake what would be the unshakable reality. I remember a series of weird newscasts from a sports reporter with a bad wig and plastic flowers in his checkered lapel (comedy sports) to introducing a slew of new anchors (it was like a revolving door down there on 5th street) including stints from Maria Shriver and Maury Povich in the early 80s. (remember People Are Talking!?)

It was like watching a car wreck and I was hooked! I never missed a newscast and I was fascinated with how they promoted the upcoming changes (that were always upcoming) ... I remember when they brought Beverly Williams back to the anchor desk with new coanchor Patrick Emory and had them both wear black turtlenecks in a major marketing campaign - featuring Bev facing away from the camera and the words "BEV'S BACK" on her back ... classy.

But the worst (or best, in my eyes) was when KYW - who pretty much had nothing to lose - decided to make the news fit society and created a disco newscast, called DIRECT CONNECTION.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the actual promotional clip for KYW-TV 3's Direct Connection ... this is what news is all about! Clams on the halfshell and roller skate, roller skate! Good Times!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Vogue: The Way It Was

This video clip was shot last August at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC - the event was sponsored by House of Latex (a youth HIV awareness org) ... and this gem of a performer is from the legendary House of Ninja ... truly how it should be done!

Although new, this clip brings me back to the days of NYC in the early 80s!! Especially since it features as the performance number the one-n-only George Kranz and his huge #1 hit Trommeltanz -- better known as Din Daa Daa -- which became part of my soundtrack to 1984!!

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Flashback: Music On The Go!

I was reading some older posts that I made here, back when I first launched this blog - and this post struck me as a classic tale of music and my youth. So, I decided to bump it to the front and share it with those that might have missed it the first time 'round ... enjoy!
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In traveling back in time - it reminded me of how much music followed me, no matter where I went. I always had music on - still do to this day. Most nights I sleep with music on all night long.

But HOW I got the music to follow me was quite a transformation. Besides a home stereo or record player, the earliest memory I have of being able to take music with me was...



The ball radio. Every kid had one and you could listen to any of your favorite AM radio stations and it could hook to your handlebars of your banana seat bike, but you had to wrap it around a few times since it tended to bang all over the place. Additionally, wrapping it in duct tape was suggested so it wouldn't break when the chain finally popped off the radio, causing the radio to fall to the ground. On a good note, you could turn up the ball and then swing it around your head faster and faster... it sort of made the music sound better. And, of course, it served as a defense weapon in case you needed to hit someone over the head.

From that, I moved on to bigger and louder. I actually owned this very model...


The classic AM/FM/8-Track player. This baby kicked out the jams!! The coolest feature (besides the black widebelt strap that let you wear it like a purse), was the BUTTON. The big black button right there on the top. Pound that baby and you were on to another song on the 8-Track. Talk about convienent. Of course, the 8-track had 4 tracks and each in stereo (hence 8) and since it WAS tape, each track was the same length of time (since its all the same tape). So, quite often you would be jammin to that cool song from Loggins & Messina and it would stop - and the system would whir and click loudly and then go to the next track and pick up where it left off. Talk about a mood breaker.

But then, the world opened wide and cassettes were invented. Yes kids. Cassettes. They weren't ALWAYS around. Same with CDs... but that comes later. With cassettes I could toss away my trusty white cube above and get me ....


my very own Walkman F1. Now the Walkman started out as an FM-only thing, so I didn't much care for it, since I didn't much care for FM radio in the late 1970s. The only station worth its weight in salt back then was WXPN for its punk music and WCAU for its disco. But I had a stereo for both, and by the late 70s, I was swimming in a sea of cassette tapes. Everyone taped everything and everyone traded homemade tapes with everyone else. Bootleg Gone Wild. So when the Walkman F1 came out - I was on it like a fly to.. well, you get the idea.

But I needed more. The problem with a Walkman was summed up in what we all called it - a Walkmom. It was the radio your mom WANTED you to have, so she didn't have to hear that crap called punk anymore. So, the search continued and once I moved into Center City, I bought myself my very own...


Panasonic-rx5040 BOOMBOX baby! I was performing for the masses, whether they liked it or not! Just look at all those plugs on the side image - each just waiting for something to be plugged into it, to make the shit even bigger! This box of music followed me just about everywhere in the early 1980s. I could probably full a landfill with all the "D" batteries I went through, just to entertain South Street, et al. The thing took 8 at a time! For a while I recall actually having a second box to compete with my trusty 5040. That one was...



my Sanyo. This actually gave the best sound of all the boxes I remember. Plus the casette deck was in the upper corner, which was just cool. And it had red and green lights to prove to everyone else that you were in charge. I think I actually found this Sanyo in an alley off South Street one night on my way home from a club. All I know for sure is I beat the shit out of all these suitcases of music. Then the 90s hit, CDs became the norm and everything started to get small. Goodbye Mr. Music Man. Hello...



Mr. Librarian. Sure I had crystal-clear music. But no one could hear it!! Well, no one but me. So I dealt, just like the rest of society. I became a DJ ;) and with that money, I am two versions away from upgrading to this...


Next, I'll just have one of these installed in my brain...