Vampire Drag Queens (Ep. 165 - Marilyn Manson)

This Week's Guest: Evan J. Peterson

What's the difference between confidence and arrogance? My guest this week is Evan Peterson, author of the memoir The PrEP Diaries. For years, he trained himself to be aggressive, aloof, above it all, as a way to pre-empt criticism. That meant erecting masks and disguises, from gothic costumes to club-kid confusion. But what was missing behind his ostentatious displays for others was confidence in himself -- something Evan's still reaching for as he journeys through recovery, faiths, and sexual exploration.

Thanks to everyone who supports The Sewers of Paris with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. If you're enjoying the show, click "Support the show on Patreon" to join the folks who make bonus episodes like this possible. Or if you can't pledge, you can still help out by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice.

You can also follow @sewersofparis on Twitter and Facebook -- I post clips of stuff we talk about and chat with listeners about the entertainment that you love. And join us for the next Sewers of Paris livestream on Saturday, April 28 at 2pm Pacific! We've been doing those livestreams twice monthly with special guests, and it's such a fun chance to hear about the movies and shows and books and music that you're obsessed with right now. 

This Week's Recommendation: Velvet Goldmine

My recommendation this week spans three different eras: made in the sexually adventurous late 90s, it's set in a bruised version of the 1980s, with flashbacks to a libidinous 70s. It's the Todd Haynes film Velvet Goldmine, which tells the story of a journalist seeking the truth about a vanished glam rock star.

The references to Citizen Kane are explicit and intentional, and there's a touch of Rashomon, Almost Famous, and Merrily We Roll Along but with an soundtrack that is absolutely thrilling. The reporter, played by a boyish Christian Bale, is on a mission to re-construct the life of a fictional but clearly Bowie-analogous idol played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. That mission brings him into contact with Ewan McGregor as a sort of 70s Kurt Cobain, Eddie Izzard as a swaggering manager, and a miasma of his own personal nostalgia for long-lost teenage rebellion.

There's also some pretty tasty gay sex.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that the more your learn about your idols, the greater the chance that you'll find they're not who you thought they were. But in his excavation of another man's life, the reporter of Velvet Goldmine finds something else he was looking for -- keys to his own life, and love, and attraction. The Charles Foster Kane of Velvet Goldmine -- or the Moby Dick, if you want to think of him that way -- isn't as important as the meaning he gave his fans.

Velvet Goldmine was initially meant to be much more directly about David Bowie, but Bowie objected and the resulting changes gave the film a freedom to fabricate and collage a story with biographical snippets of Jobriath and Iggy Pop and Jean Genet and Oscar Wilde. But the resulting work is only a distant relative of those creators. As much as the characters of the film find their own meaning outside of the artist, the film finds its own meaning outside of its influences.
 

Stuff We Talked About

I Don't Have Any Shame in my Game (Ep. 164 - Aydian Dowling)

Special Guest: Aydian Dowling

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Hello, and welcome to a bonus episode of The Sewers of Paris! Thanks to the support of everyone on Patreon, I'm able to bring you extra episodes with guests beyond just gay men. This month, we're going beyond the Sewers with a very special guest: Aydian Dowling, the first trans man to appear on the cover of Men's Health.

You might know him as the physically fit model who appeared on a special cover of Men's Health a few years ago. Aydian Dowling's made a habit of breaking barriers, refusing to back down, standing up and being seen. But he wasn't always the beaming, confident model on the cover of magazines -- there were dark periods that at times he couldn't see any way to survive. In those times, he found the inspiration to go on in some unlikely places: a soap opera he wasn't supposed to see, movies he wasn't supposed to have, and a pride parade that changed his life.

Thanks to everyone who supports The Sewers of Paris with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. If you're enjoying the show, click "Support the show on Patreon" to join the folks who make bonus episodes like this possible. Or if you can't pledge, you can still help out by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice.

You can also follow @sewersofparis on Twitter and Facebook -- I post clips of stuff we talk about and chat with listeners about the entertainment that you love. And join us for the next Sewers of Paris livestream on Saturday, April 28 at 2pm Pacific! We've been doing those livestreams twice monthly with special guests, and it's such a fun chance to hear about the movies and shows and books and music that you're obsessed with right now. 

Recommendation: Hairspray

Thanks again to Aydian for joining me. Those TV shows that he mentioned aren't always the BEST sources of representation -- Maury and soap operas can sometimes be pretty exploitative. But even at their worst, those daytime TV shows can still be a source of power for folks who are searching for any sign that they're not alone.

For my recommendation this week, check out two movies, both with the same title: Hairspray. First the 1988 version with queer icons Divine and Ricki Lake; then the 2007 one with noted heterosexuals Zac Efron and John Travolta. Both films are not without their problems -- the first can be a little slow in parts, the second not quite as daring as its predecessor. But together they make for a lovely experience, centered on the life-changing power of a daytime TV show.

The 1988 Hairspray was directed by John Waters, and though it's definitely startling and weird, it has much more of a moral center than his previous work. John's often commented on how shocked he was to have accidentally made a family film. 

In both films, a young woman longs to see herself on television -- she knows she's good enough to belong -- but a cold indifferent world isn't ready to accept people who look a little different from what they're used to. Ultimately of course she prevails, transforming the face of American television and proving that it's intolerance that's truly unfit for broadcast.

Stuff we Talked About

The Wrong Kind of Gay (Ep. 163 - Jem and the Holograms)

This Week's Guest: Drew Mackie

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My guest this week is Drew Mackie. You might know him from the podcasts Gayest Episode Ever, or Singing Mountain, or We Are Not Young Anymore. The point is that he does a lot of podcasts, generally about the art & entertainment that makes the world a more joyful place. It's a long way from where he started his career, as a hard journalist covering a quadruple murder in his college town. For years, he did the serious work that he thought was expected of him, even though it made him miserable, until he finally gave himself permission to walk away from his job and pursue his passion.

By the way, the next Sewers of Paris livestream is coming up this weekend! Join us on Saturday, April 14th for another live chat with me and other Sewers listeners. The theme this time is animation. Can't wait to geek out with you about Steven Universe, Korra, and Bugs Bunny's drag career. Head over to the @SewersOfParis twitter feed -- there's a pinned tweet with a link to the livestream. We go live Saturday, April 14, at 2pm pacific.

Thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There are special rewards for patrons like early ad-free access to content, shoutouts in videos, and a copy of my book mailed to you with some cute Sewers of Paris buttons. If you're enjoying the show, click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or if you can't pledge, you can still help out by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice.

This Week's Recommendation: Kidd Video

Thanks again to Drew for joining me. I try not to be too obnoxiously self-indulgent with my 80s nostalgia -- that's what Ready Player One is for -- but our conversation this week reminded me of one of my favorite stupid 80s opening theme songs. So my recommendation this week is to head over to YouTube and watch the opening theme of the show Kidd Video -- that's Kidd with who Ds.

Kidd Video is my favorite kind of show, in that its premise is extremely stupid and requires a song to explain what you're about to see, like Mr. Edd, and Gilligan's Island, and My Mother the Car. And yet somehow, even though the opening theme is an ambitious minute and a half, it barely manages to set up the premise and literally concludes with a character breaking out of song to shrug, "I'll explain later."

In terms of camp value, this minute and a half is beyond measure. It features loopy high school band archetypes -- the hot one, the nerd, the 80s hipster -- lyrics like "high tech just turns me on," and multiple smoldering gazes into the camera through a mirror. That would be enough to make for a goofy after-school premise. But then an evil corporate record executive transports the teens to a cartoon world where a magic fairy with leg warmers rescues them through the power of sneezes that confer super strength. I am not making this up.

The show itself is of course terrible. But the 90s seconds of disbelief that you will experience while watching that opening -- ahhh, priceless.

Stuff We Talked About