Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recent Backstage Reviews

September 20, 2007
By Christopher Murray

The talented team of composer Derek Gregor and book writer-lyricist Sam Carner has followed the musical unities in Unlock'd, a loose adaptation of Alexander Pope's early-18th-century mock-heroic poem "The Rape of the Lock." Much as Pope exploited the heroic ode to ridicule social convention, Gregor and Carner adroitly utilize the building blocks of the musical form to tell a satiric tale of petty squabbling among young British aristocrats. In doing so, Unlock'd makes for a gentle and often pleasing entertainment.

Beautiful Belinda (a pixyish Sarah Jane Everman) is envied by her step-sister Clarissa (an intense Jackie Burns), who plots to take her down a peg by inducing a playboy baron (the rich baritone Jim Weitzer) to collect a lock of her hair as a fetishized trophy of amorous conquest. The interventions of the baron's bookish brother (Christopher Gunn) and a sextet of virgin sylphs (Alison Cimmet, Maria Couch, Mary Catherine McDonald) and plodding gnomes (Darryl Winslow, Christopher Totten, William Thomas Evans) ensure plenty of intrigue and comic mayhem just perfect for singing about with whimsy: "Hair, hair, elegant hair/Without it my head would be bare."
The songs, expertly orchestrated and played, are enjoyable if not memorable, one of several exceptions being "Off to the East," a charming and wistful duet fantasy of escape to exotic, faraway places. Under Igor Goldin's direction, lovely costumes and an elegant, simple, and well-manipulated set add to the overall effect.

The uniformly fine cast makes every effort to imbue the material with passion and lighthearted joie de vivre, but their professionalism and zest can't overcome what is essentially a highly polished confection that has neither quite enough wit nor heart to rise to the level of an Into the Woods or Candide. But for what it is, an admirably executed example of an adaptation from classical material, Unlock'd is undeniably charming, unpretentious, and lovingly created.

Presented by La Vie Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at TBG Theater, 312 W. 36th St., 3rd floor, NYC.September 17-30. Remaining performances: Fri., Sept. 21, 4:30 and 7 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 22, 1 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 29, 1 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 30, 1 p.m.(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or by Stephen DeAngelis.

A Global Dionysus in Napoli
September 21, 2007
By Christopher Murray

La MaMa E.T.C., the stalwart Off-Off-Broadway performance venue, is known as a home away from home for international theatre artists looking to present their works in the United States. The OPS Project has arrived for two weeks to present its 2004 performance piece A Global Dionysus in Napoli.

The modern Dionysus in question is Marcello Colasurdo, a former factory worker from Pomigliano in Southern Italy near Naples whose folk songs helped organize worker protests in the 1970s. Colasurdo, a waltzing bear of a man with full cheeks and many necklaces, bangs and flutters his fingers on his traditional tambourine as he sings his lugubrious a cappella laments. One can imagine the power of traditional music to focus the outrage and stiffen the resolve of farmers-turned-activists whose employment in cities, initiated under grandiose economic development plans, had all but sputtered out.

The current piece, conceived by a trio of theatre artists who were just being born in the mid-'70s, is a performance-arty lionization of Colasurdo, proposing him as the ultimate folk artist of impeccable ethical and artistic credentials who has managed to have a global impact without selling out. With a hip-hop DJ (Marco Messina) spinning on stage to provide contemporary street cred, a Londoner (Vernon Douglas) acts as narrator while Colasurdo slumps in a padded chair waiting for his cue to lift his hefty frame and promenade Zorba-like around the stage.

In between Colasurdo's songs, a series of projections -- think updated civics-class educational slide shows -- provide background on the impact of globalization on the Naples region, from Mussolini's obsessive factory openings in 1938 through today's "medialized numbness."

While it's interesting to try to understand the impact of national economic forces on local citizenry across the globe, the presentation of Colasurdo as a sort of singing savior of the people wears thin even within the swift 50 minutes of this piece.

Presented by and at La MaMa E.T.C.,74A E. Fourth St., NYC.Sept. 21-30. Fri. and Sat., 10 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.(212) 475-7710 or

Gemini the Musical
September 24, 2007
By Christopher Murray

Playwright Albert Innaurato has transformed his successful 1977 Broadway roman à clef into a high-spirited musical about a young Harvard student returning for the summer to his South Philly neighborhood, with Charles Gilbert, Innaurato's colleague at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, providing music and lyrics. Filled with kooky, outsized characters and a generous if often salty live-and-let-live spirit, Gemini the Musical, like its lead character, has a lot of heart but is still struggling to find its voice.

Fran (a smooth and affable Joel Blum), the Italian-American pater familias, starts things off by crooning out "One Big Family," which makes clear that in this neighborhood "we kiss, we cuss, we kick up a fuss." However, both the story and the score, while bouncy, tend to lurch a little. Gilbert relies to a surfeit on monosyllabic rhymes, and the majority of the songs are solo numbers, odd in a piece that is all about family and interreliance. Still, Linda Hart (from Broadway's Hairspray) kicks up a delightful self-dramatizing fuss as Bunny, the aging harlot next door, and her second-act showpiece "I'm Gonna Jump!" is the high point of the show, sung from high atop a street pole.

Innaurato's love for his idiosyncratic characters remains strong even 30 years after their initial introduction to the stage, but revising his main character Francis' (recent Boston Conservatory graduate Dan Micciche) struggles to come out as gay to conform to contemporary sensibilities may not have been the right decision for this musicalization.

What's clear is that the game actors performing the piece are still struggling to make their characters more than cardboard cutouts under Mark Robinson's somewhat slapdash direction. As much as Dana Kenn's two-dimensional flats accurately convey the brick-faced row houses of South Philly, the creative team needs to continue working toward showing the three-dimensional lives of the characters who inhabit Innaurato's world.

Presented by the University of the Arts as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Acorn Theater, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC.Sept. 18-Oct. 1. Remaining performances: Tue., Sept. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 1, 8 p.m.(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or or by Stuart Howard Associates.

September 24, 2007
By Christopher Murray

Avenue Q's Stephanie D'Abruzzo plays Sam, the stable, stage-managing center of the storm in Austentatious, a new backstage musical farce. "Guys," she implores with pencil stuck into her hair, "we have a play to rehearse; this is not the time for drama."

But, of course, it is the perfect time for the fragile egos involved in the Central Riverdale Amateur Players updated production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to let loose all their insecurities and mad grabs for power and applause. Emily (Stacey Sargeant) wrote the extremely loose adaptation and insists on adding interpretive dance sequences, including a movement duel with clogs bizarrely set among windmills in Amsterdam. She's also been cast as the star because she's romantically involved with Dom (Stephen Bel Davies), the abstracted and grandiose director with the obligatory scarf tossed around his neck.

Much of Austentatious treads ground familiar from shows like Noises Off and A Chorus Line, but this crowd pleaser makes the satire of community theatre winningly fresh again by dint of superb and drum-tight direction by Mary Catherine Burke and a wonderful cast, each member fully invested in the delightful peculiarities of his or her character.

The jazzy music and witty lyrics by Matt Board and Joe Slabe focus mostly on the private thoughts of the players as they struggle toward opening night while demonstrating that "somehow the Austen got lost in translation." My other favorite rhyme matched "hunky dory" to "purgatory."

The book is credited to the songwriters and three other collaborators (Jane Caplow, Kate Galvin, and Luisa Hinchliff), but too many cooks prove just right for the Feydeau farcical elements of Austentatious. Sometimes, however, the manic silliness overtakes the emotional core of the piece and the sung inner monologues of people struggling for acceptance and validation. Regardless, Austentatious is a charming and winningly presented highlight of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Presented by From the Top Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Julia Miles Theater, 424 W. 55th St., NYC.Sept. 18-29. Remaining performances: Tue., Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 28, at 11 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or or

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Backstage Review of Danny Hoch's New Play

Till the Break of Dawn

September 14, 2007

By Christopher Murray

Best known for his high-octane solo shows, Danny Hoch is the undisputed master of the urban male rant. Words spew out with a shotgun rapidity mixing cultural references, languages, fury, and wit in equal measure.

Till the Break of Dawn is Hoch's first attempt at a full-length play, and there are plenty of arias of angst delivered by a variety of characters that still sound suspiciously like him. Indeed, characters don't talk to each other as much as at each other, which is a shame, because they have a lot to say.

Gibran (Jaymes Jorsling), an Internet technogeek and wannabe radical, has cooked up a junket to a Havana hip-hop festival for his friends with the help of Adam (Matthew-Lee Erlbach), a smalltime record producer from Queens. Once there, they meet an ex-Black Panther in exile (Gwendolen Hardwick) who challenges their oversimplified vision of Cuba as a sociopolitical utopia.

The lion's share of the play consists of the characters lambasting each other with analyses of race and class, which may sound deadly but is mostly a heck of a lot of fun. Hoch is a born satirist, and his cast for the most part has a field day with his vivid language and passion for ideas. Hoch also directed the play, mostly admirably, with the tremendously appealing actors secure in their well-delineated characters, though they do tend to overdeliver on that well-known maxim "louder, faster, funnier."

Dominic Colon knocks one out of the park with his portrayal of Big Miff, who in his canary yellow velour sweat suit is a caricature of the already larger-than-life gangsta rapper Fat Joe. Colon never winks as he deadpans lines like "You people are depressing yo. You talk too much."

Overly loquacious they may be, but even with a portentous Sept. 11 tie-in at the end, Hoch is still one of the freshest and most exciting theatrical voices in town.

Presented by Culture Project at the Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand St., NYC.Sept. 13-Oct. 21. Tue.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 2 p.m.(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or or Casting by Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, and Kerry Barden.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Macbeth" and "Murder and Mayhem on Main Street?" Reviews


September 13, 2007

By Christopher Murray

When stoking his intent to kill a king, Macbeth reflects that he has "only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself." Much the same might be said of ShakespeareNYC's production of the Scottish play. Ambition is certainly not lacking in the company's stated goal of producing the bard of Avon's entire canon, but Macbeth, curse aside, is a difficult play to perform effectively, with its unrelenting progress toward ever more bloodshed and horror.

Under the direction of Beverly Bullock, James Beaman as Macbeth begins with a strong attack. His sturdy baritone speaks verse well and with good clarity, and his haunted eyes reveal depth. Unfortunately, he is unable to sustain a coherent interpretation of the role in a production weighted down with clumsy blocking, poor lighting that often keeps actors' faces in shadows, and an overemphasis on costuming and posturing at the expense of clear storytelling and illuminated conflict.

The witches' early appearance as harbingers of prophecy also forecasts the production's weaknesses, thanks to their masked faces, Halloween capes with pointed hoods, poor diction, and cascades of shrill cackles unconnected to any textual meaning. When they doff their crone's disguises and emerge as seductive beauties in party dresses, one with plastic mice running up the front, one's fears are only confirmed.

Another significant problem is Brandon Giles' set design: A false proscenium divides downstage from upstage with a series of light cloth curtains that are unable to sufficiently mask scene changes either visually or aurally.These issues and others serve to obscure the potentially interesting work of actors like Jim Jack, whose stately Banquo is every inch the professional soldier and loving father, and Susanna Harris, who even in her Disney villainess costumes strives to reveal the invidious essence and tortured inner life of Lady Macbeth.

Presented by ShakespeareNYC at the Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC.Sept 7-22. Thu., 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.(212) 279-4200 or

Melodrama and Mayhem on Main Street?

September 13, 2007

By Christopher Murray

Women Seeking... is a 10-year-old theatre company dedicated to presenting works that showcase women artists. Its current production harkens back to the work of three early-20th-century female playwrights who broke new ground in dramatic form while crashing through gender barriers.

Journalist Susan Glaspell and playwright-producer Alice Gerstenberg both helped found innovative theatres — the Provincetown Players for the former, the Chicago Little Theatre and the Playwrights' Theatre of Chicago for the latter — while Louise Bryant may be best remembered now for Diane Keaton's portrayal of her as John Reed's lover in Warren Beatty's film Reds. Bryant was a dedicated community organizer and saw drama as a powerful way to influence events, including women's rights.

Melodrama and Mayhem on Main Street? comprises six one-acts: three by Bryant — including the world premiere of From Paris to Main Street, unearthed from the archives at Yale University — two by Gerstenberg, and one by Pulitzer winner Glaspell. All of the plays examine the transitioning role of women in the years leading up to World War II.

The evening's opener, The Game, penned by Bryant, is a discourse between personifications of life and death as they roll dice for the fates of two young people, who represent beauty and poetry. It's not really a dramatic situation but an argument. Bryant is exploring archetypes for their relevance in everyday lives. Unfortunately, it creaks a fair amount today.

But some of the other pieces still pack a punch, particularly Trifles by Glaspell, in which the residents of a small rural community try to understand a wife's murder of her husband on the couple's lonely farm. Gender perspectives are movingly demonstrated: While the men look for evidence of motive, the women reluctantly stitch together a tale of cruelty from the quotidian details left behind. The beginnings of a patchwork blanket and a jar of preserves reveal telling clues to the murder, clues that the men just don't have eyes to see.

Some of the actors are stiff and amateurish, but their devotion to the material is infectious. Hannah Ingram as a newly married Parisienne and Anna Malinoski as a society matron's long-suffering daughter stand out.

Presented by Women Seeking…at the Kraine Theatre, 85 E. Fourth St., NYC.Sept. 5-29. Tue. and Wed., 7:30 pm; Mon. and Sat., 3 p.m.(212) 868-4444 or

Saturday, September 1, 2007

"Rites of Privacy" Review for Backstage

Rites of Privacy
August 30, 2007
By Christopher Murray
David Rhodes' one-man show intersperses snippets of autobiographical disclosure in between five monologues with the linking theme of the price people pay for retaining their secrets. The idea here is that identity is often forged at the cost of integrity and can only be redeemed in the crucible of confession.
Such a profoundly Catholic premise would seem odd for a show where the author-performer and all the characters are Jewish, but our culture of self-aggrandizing victimhood trumps all lesser considerations.
Rhodes, clothing rack behind him, sits at a vanity with a lighted mirror as he casually and efficiently adds and removes makeup and costume pieces to embody in sequence an aging Southern belle, "the only Jew in Bethlehem, New Hampshire," an elderly émigré from Dresden, a garish Long Island physician, and a troubled Belgian club kid. Besides offering up a cavalcade of stereotypical accents, these portraits allow Rhodes ample opportunity to show off an unfortunately florid and overwrought acting style that brings to mind Hamlet's imprecation to the Player King not to "tear a passion to tatters."

Cool and elegant projections by scenic designer Greg Emetaz ripple on white curtains upstage in counterpoint to all the effort expended by Rhodes. His Chelsea-boy muscled torso, with twinkling naval ring and tattoos on his upper and lower back, glistens with sweat during costume changes and foreshadows the disclosure at evening's end of a personal secret he purports to have overcome.
There is, however, a transcendent moment early on in Rites of Privacy, when one of the characters mimes playing the harp while singing Noël Coward's syrupy anthem "I'll Follow My Secret Heart." Fingers twirling, voice aquiver with tremolo, caricature is transcended to reveal an inner essence with a ridiculous force, something artists like Charles Ludlam knew to be a pathway into pathos. It's a shame that Rhodes is so earnestly playing tragedy while a tragic clown is imprisoned inside him.
Presented by Moving Parts Theater at Urban Stages, 259 W. 30th St., NYC.Aug. 30-Sept. 30. Tue.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.(212) 868-4444 or

Gay Latino Housecleaners

Andres Hoyos and Migdalia Santiago run support groups for recent LGBT
immigrants in Spanish and English at the LGBT Community Center.

The Secret Lives of Elves

"I'm not quite sure how it came to be," said Barbara Roche Fierman, the owner of The Little Elves of New York, a high-end house cleaning company. "Like our customers, our staff comes to us mainly by word of mouth. It's just something that's evolved over time."

The word of mouth route Fierman takes advantage of to find her workers isn't based on their expertise in cleaning apartments with valuable art collections, nor on the professional sang froid they bring to dusting in the homes of bold-faced Hamptons clients including Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Instead, she's referring to the unusual demographics of her staff, who are all recent Latino immigrants and almost exclusively gay.

The Little Elves turns out to be a boutique service in New York that oddly enough has a kind of boutique New York workforce as well. Named best cleaning service by New York magazine for the last two years in a row, The Little Elves is more than 80 percent staffed by gay Latinos, estimates Fierman. In the ongoing stream of new Americans who come to our city and find their way, these elves are a case study in resilience, mutual aid, and community building.

There are many jobs that are associated with recent immigrants, like busboys, deli workers, and maids, and there have traditionally been strong links between certain jobs and immigrants from specific places, like Irish cops in an earlier period in New York City's history, or nowadays, the fact that a random dogwalker you see being pulled down a Manhattan block by a drooling pack of canines is more likely than not Brazilian.

Certain occupations have also long been associated with gay people, of course, like hairdresser or florist. But The Little Elves define a rare hybrid, where multiple identities combine in a specific job, for a specific company. And that can make for a strong sense of camaraderie among the workers, who as recent transplants, may be particularly grateful for a sense of community, wherever they find it, even scrubbing floors.

"When I came to this country, I was very lonely," said Pietro, 38, a native of Peru who came to New York four years ago. "I worked in a kitchen at a restaurant, but I was very unhappy. I thought seriously about returning home."

Pietro, like many immigrants, first found his social network among other people from his native country who had already made a place for themselves in New York. This can be complicated for gay people, noted Debanuj DasGupta, the immigration policy analyst with Queers for Economic Justice, since sometimes the culture of their country, replicated here, is intensely homophobic.

"I didn't want to tell my Peruvian friends in my neighborhood in Queens that I was gay, so I just hid that part of myself while I tried to get a job and get settled," Pietro said. That's why finding Little Elves has worked out nicely for him so far.

A recent Saturday night found Pietro with several co-workers who have become friends, sharing a beer at Atlantis, one of the string of gay bars that line a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue under the elevated subway line in Jackson Heights, Queens. That night there was Sergio from Argentina, Alejandro from Costa Rica, Maurice from Colombia, and Dolores from the Dominican Republic, all talking at once about work, school, ambitions, and love affairs.

"I met Pietro and he didn't have immigration papers. We grew close very quickly and I decided to marry him to help, even though I have a girlfriend," said Dolores. (Names have been changed in this story out of concern for the immigration issues facing some of those mentioned.)

It's not uncommon for recent gay arrivals to get around immigration laws by making a marriage of convenience with an established resident who has legal status, said DasGupta. But sometimes, people make compromises that aren't so innocuous or pleasant.

"Among younger gay male immigrants there can be an over-reliance on jobs in the shadow economy," he said, "like being filmed having sex for cheap porn sites, prostituting themselves, erotic dancing." This may be particularly true of Latino men who are often objectified and sexualized in gay male culture, he noted."In these ways of making money there are no protections, people are putting bodies on the line, chancing sexually transmitted diseases and risk for HIV."

"You do things because you have to survive," said Javier, a former Little Elves worker who hustled on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey when he arrived from Colombia at 19. "It's not because you love it. If you are lucky, you move on," he said.

One enterprising young Latino gay man named Juan has combined housecleaning and his sex appeal by advertising online for nude housecleaning services."I have been offering professional nude housekeeping services for over four years," he said in an e-mail. "I am probably the first to really find that there is a market for this and people never knew they would be interested. I am different because I don't use it as a front for prostitution or escort services and do a thorough professional job."
Although some people regard a stint as a little elf merely a steppingstone on the way to a different sort of employment, the job does have its benefits. Rates for the workers charged to the client are $33 per hour, $45 per hour for a supervisor, which is mandatory on jobs requiring more than two people. The workers' pay ranges from $8 an hour to just over $14. Fierman has also paid for some workers to take English lessons and loaned money when times were tight.

But the elves work hard for their hourly rates. The job is physically intense and moves at a fast pace. Javier remembers lugging carpets from one floor to another with the help of that day's client, Julie Andrews, who wore a kerchief on her head and worked up quite a cleaning sweat of her own. (And, yes, she sings while she cleans, said the starstruck Javier.)
But there are also tensions working for customers of a certain social standing. Though widely divergent in terms of design and décor, almost all the homes of the ritzier clients have one thing in common, according to Pietro - cameras in every room, recording every workers' every move. That sense of having to watch their step is intensified for gay immigrants who may be trying to adjust to American mores - and also learning how to be gay for the first time in a much more open environment than they came from.

Tensions of this sort are often discussed at the support groups for gay immigrants run at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center each month. Andres Hoyos, a Colombian immigrant himself, works as the director of Center Care Recovery at the Center, where he initiated immigrant support groups in both English and Spanish.

"The goal of the groups is to build community," he said. "People are managing their sexuality, racial/ethnic identity, and their immigration status all at the same time, which can be very stressful. Identity is more complex than what people see on the outside. They are bringing their country of origin's way of relating to sexuality and race with them and adding that to their cultural context here in New York."

Daniel, who works independently as a housecleaner and is both undocumented and HIV-positive, said his choice of work makes for greater isolation than if he worked for a service but is safer for him than the risk of running afoul of immigration policy in a more structured work environment. "A lot of people are surprised to see guys cleaning instead of a cleaning lady," he said. "They don't necessarily know you are gay the first time you come, but they figure it out."

For Pietro and his friends hanging out at the Atlantis, working at Little Elves has provided a stable source of both income and community based on multiple shared identities."It's nice to know we're not alone," Pietro reflected at he enjoyed an evening beer. "We can work and relax together and know we all share a similar experience."

The LGBT Community Center's Center CARE program runs biweekly support groups for LGBT immigrants in Spanish and English as well as individial counseling in Spanish and free English classes. For fall starting dates and more information, call Migdalia Santiago at 212-620-7310 or e-mail msantiago@

Shame-Based, Shame-Based, Shame-Based

This news cycle's public flaying of Republican Senator Larry Craig for soliciting "lewd conduct" in a Minneapolis airport restroom gave me no pleasure. I like to think of myself as first in line for a big helping of schadenfreude, especially at the seemingly endless parade of fundamentalist conservative hypocrites getting what's coming to 'em, but it just isn't so.

Seeing the related piece on CNN this week about "The Secret World of Gay Men's Hookups" and the descriptions of "creepy," "disgusting," and "dirty" public homosexual male sex was embarrassing and completely uncomfortable for me. All that horrible detail about secret foot-tapping signals under bathroom stalls. Ugh. Note to the senator - foot tapping is so old school, get your fine self on craigslist, gurl!

But in all seriousness, I loathe having our community's dirty laundry aired in public. I hated all the "gay men in three-day crystal meth-fueled fisting parties" newspaper stories. I hated all the "bug chaser seeks load after load of HIV-infected semen" magazine articles. I hated all the "black men on the down low are giving our women AIDS" episodes on daytime television talk shows.

Seeing and hearing all these exposes triggers all my internalized homophobia since I am completely and utterly shame-based. I was one of those kids you could point at in the lunchroom and say "Red!" and within 30 seconds my whole face would light up in Technicolor scarlet. I lived in fear that someone would discover the colored bikini underwear I stole from my mother's best friend's sexy boyfriend with the '70s moustache. And now I still have my secret shames.

We homos take such pains to separate ourselves so definitively from the Reverend Haggards, Congressman Foleys, and Senator Craigs of the world, don't we? But the truth is that almost everyone lives some kind of double life. We walk around pretending we aren't going to go home and jerk off to some sleazy Internet site or that we don't want to get jiggy with the greasy building superintendent.

Well, you are as sick as your secrets, the saying goes, and as Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." So, here goes. Mom, close your eyes. I've had sex in public restrooms and parks, thought it was hot AND been concerned about my sexual compulsivity. I've had awesome sexual experiences on meth AND gotten freaked out by the destructive force of that drug. I've flirted with unprotected sex, been totally aroused by barebacking AND felt tremendous anxiety about our community norms around it.

Whew! I feel better, don't you? Admit it.

Of course, I'm an out gay man, not a closeted hypocrite who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. But I'm not sure that distinction really means too much to me emotionally. I know there is a difference between Senator Craig and me - I'm not deceiving a spouse nor voting on far-reaching national legislation, but still, I'm hardwired to crumple at my own or any one else's public pie in the face, even if they deserved it.

Guess what, maybe it's about coming out even more, even for all us out loud and proud types reading this newspaper.

By the way, I think that hair-trigger shame is partially where gay men's extraordinary emotional intelligence comes from. The empathy that fuels our artistic sensitivity or the supportive insight we are known for emanates from the inner knowledge that develops long before we ever suck a dick that we are somehow, innately wrong.

Some of us are able to overcome the paralyzing force of that shame to lead productive and loving lives. But make no mistake, as mainstreamed as MTV and CNN and USA Today and often we ourselves insist we are, gay men - and for that matter, all sexual minorities, our lesbian, bi, and trans sisters and brothers included - still pay a heavy price. We struggle mightily with direct outcomes of that shame - in our difficulty managing intimate relationships, and also in patently self-destructive acts like substance abuse, over-eating, and unsafe and otherwise dangerous sex.

So, stagnant, self-hating, denialist Senator Craig, my erstwhile fellow traveler, take a page out of the book of your much maligned compatriot Jim McGreevey and come out, come out, wherever you are. I won't say the water's just fine - it runs hot and cold - but it's fresh and it's pure and it's cleansing. See you in the steam room.

©GayCityNews 2007