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

This Week's Guest: Will Kostakis

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

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

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

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

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

This Week's Recommendation: Fraud

Fraud: Essays
By David Rakoff

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff we Talked About

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

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

Music

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

Tina Turner Realness (Ep. 134 - Proud Mary)

This Week's Guest: Tony Moore

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

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

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

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

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

This Week's Recommendation: Julian Clary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clips of Stuff We Talked About

 

Music

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

How to be Awesome (Ep. 133 - Terry Pratchett)

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We all know life's short, so how do you make the most of the time you've got? My guest this week is Scott Flashheart, comedian and host of the podcast Probably True. He grew up in a tiny British mining town -- or at least, what WAS a mining town, before the mine was closed, sending the place he lived into a slow downward spiral. He knew he didn't belong there, but he also felt out of place among other gays. It took a lot of work -- and a major loss -- to steer him towards his true calling: telling dick jokes to the world.

By the way, you can follow The Sewers of Paris on Facebook and Twitter -- I post clips of stuff the guests talked about throughout the week, and chat with listeners like you about the entertainment that changed YOUR life. You can also get in touch at sewerspodcast@gmail.com. Listener Jim wrote in to ask for more details about the books that guests mention -- thanks Jim, I can definitely do that. Starting this week I'll include info about books in the shownotes over at SewersOfParis.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Dress to Kill

Big thanks to Scott for joining me. Head over to ProbablyTruePodcast.com to subscribe to Scott's show. For this week's recommendation we're going to go back in time, twenty years ago to the peerless Eddie Izzard comedy special Dress to Kill.

Eddie's an actor and comic who doesn't fit neatly into boxes. In his 1998 special, he comes out in ladies' wear and calls himself an executive transvestite, though these days he uses the term transgender, and in neither case is he who you might picture when you hear those words.

He's just who he is, standing somewhat to the side of easy labels and conventional wisdom. Not just in how he presents himself, but also in his comedy, which is at its foundation mischievous and very smart. In Dress to Kill, Eddie tackles religion, history, medicine, war, growing old, and it takes a bit of work to keep up but it's worth it.

One of the topics he touches on is puberty -- you know, the time in your life when you first want to attract people and are also feel more physically repulsive than ever before.

In his act, Eddie jokes about how nice it would be to get the drama of puberty over with in just one day. But in reality, it can last for years, long past the time when one's body has settled into whatever it's going to be. The self-consciousness and horror you feel when you look in the mirror may decide to linger like unwanted body hair, and for queers that can include uncomfortable realizations about who you love, how you dress, and what you want to be.

Some of these things we can change, some we can learn to live with, some we can remove by spending thousands of dollars under a laser. The angst of our teen years can set a path for the rest of our lives, and bits of that path can seem quite miserable. But whatever that journey is, you're probably not the first to make it. There's weirdos and outcasts who came before, and you might find some solace in the ones who acknowledged "This is who I am" and asked "what if I was okay with that?"

Stuff We Talked About

Here's Scott's favorite guide on reading Terry Pratchett.

Mort (Discworld)
By Terry Pratchett

 

Music

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