A Giraffe Gynecologist (Ep. 106 - Opera)

This Week's Guest: James Jorden

Longtime listeners may remember way back in episode 4 of The Sewers of Paris, my guest Greg talked about picking up copies of an unofficial queer opera zine called Parterre Box in the men's room of the Metropolitan Opera. The publisher of that zine is this week's guest. James Jorden always wanted to direct, but when he first moved to New York the closest he could get to the stage was in a low-paying job sweeping up bobby pins. That's when he had a a stroke of inspiration: if his career wasn't advancing through official channels, maybe more underground measures would bring him success. There's no way he could have imagined how right he would be.
 

This Week's Recommendation: What's Opera Doc

Thanks again to James for joining me and for bringing so many enlightening cultural references. But somehow, we neglected to discuss my favorite opera singer: Bugs Bunny. For my recommendation this week, take a look at the masterpiece What's Opera Doc, where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs through Wagner's Ring Cycle. Of course, there is drag.

But there is also a real affection for the source material, with references to Sigfried's horn, and the horse from the actual opera, and Valhalla and the opera The Flying Dutchman. If you find opera intimidating or confusing or dry, you couldn't ask for a better way in to the actual music and characters and story. 

That mismatch of tone -- tragic opera and goofy cartoon -- could have been a disaster, but What's Opera Doc (and the similarly brilliant Rabbit of Seville) create a perfect blend of high drama and campy slapstick. And I think it works so well because of a principle that Elmer Fudd never seems to learn: the more serious and imposing a force tries to be, the better it pairs with the absolutely ridiculous.

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/

I Always Wanted to be the Pretty one (Ep. 105 - Miss Universe)

This Week's Guest: Ben Fede

How do you know when you're home? Is home a place you find, or a place you make? My guest this week grew up in the US, but never quite felt like he belonged. That all changed after a chance film screening, a lucky visit to a chat room, and a surprise visit to Ireland. After a lifetime of trying to figure out where he belonged, Ben took a gamble on international romance -- and won.
 

This Week's Recommendation: Leather Pageants

As we make our way into springtime, we're coming up on what is, in many cities around the world, leather season. Atlanta Leather Pride starts April 7, Minnesota's starts March 31, Washington's is March 16, Los Angeles is March 26. Chances are good that there's leather pride happening somewhere near you in the next few weeks.

For my recommendation this week: get yourself to a leather contest. If you're not familiar, they're basically beauty pageants for masculinity. They're generally held at a bar, and there's usually a talent portion, a Q&A with judges, and some kind of jockstrap posing competition. 

There's a lot of beauty on display at these events, and not all of it physical. In addition to benefitting charity, many Leather Pride pageants celebrate diverse bodies, community service, and social support. Many contests are growing more adventuresome with gender and sexuality, pushing at the boundaries of what masculinity can mean. One of my favorite winners in recent years was Pup Tugger, who marched out on stage in a corset and high heels.

Leather competitions manage to combine the best things about beauty pageants and raunchy filthy sex -- the contrast is stark and ridiculous and super fun, especially because it's such a tiny community, so everyone knows everyone else. 

I often tell people here's nothing like live entertainment, and it's hard to get more live than a parade of hairy men bending over for a cheering crowd.

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/

It Makes Every Gay Bone in my Body Vibrate (Ep. 104 - Broadway)

This Week's Guest: Stephen Oremus

My guest this week started his musical career at a neighborhood friend's piano, hanging out and playing showtunes. These days he's doing pretty much the same, but he's accompanying Broadway stars and winning Tonys. Stephen Oremus worked on The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, Frozen, and 9 to 5, among many others, and was music director for the 87th Academy Awards -- a role that became a little tense when one of the winners had an unexpected message to deliver from the stage. 
 

This Week's Recommendation: Showgirls

It was a real delight to reflect on musical dreams coming true, and so for my recommendation this week, I'd suggest taking a look at another story of an artist who reaches for the stars in the big city: Showgirls.

It is incomprehensible to me that I have not recommended this movie already, though episode 28 of Sewers of Paris features Patrick Bristow, who appears in the film as a choreographer with a short fuse. If you haven't seen this film, let me just prepare you: it is not what you would call cinema verite. Its proximity with reality is as close as that of some of director Paul Verhoeven's other films, like Starship Troopers and Robocop. It's the story of a woman who arrives in Las Vegas with dreams of dancing and glamour and fame, and she achieves it all -- but at the price of... well... her dignity, maybe?

I love Showgirls because it is weird and extravagant, and sexually sideways in a way that feels like the script was a mad lib. But it is not, I don't think, accidental. I don't believe there's anything on the screen that isn't supposed to be there, and as with Starship Troopers and Robocop, I suspect that the filmmakers knew exactly how insane this vision was. There are those who claim that Showgirls is a failure of seriousness, a fiasco of bad taste, and a train wreck of glitter.

But I don't think it is those things. I think it's about those things.

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/