Monday, April 13, 2009

Mannequins of Mexico City

Here are some of my favorite mannequins in Mexico City, these from a uniform store on Insurgentes Sur in La Condesa. They are so sexy, if a little motheaten, (but that's my type, really).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Margaret Dumont poem

Margaret Dumont

Dowager queen of loose-necked flesh, glide
across the foyer to greet your kooky guests.

They are hanging like monkeys
from the chandeliers, pissing down
on the invited guests and cackling.

Remember to smile and never waver, well-bred
and resolute as you take your medicine.

Come Harpo, you satyr, and Groucho,

make fun of my weight. Here is the thick-
accented one, selling tuttsi fruitsi from a cart

and lingering over the rump of my favorite
maid. So she's yours, you deliberate jackal,

take her and fuck her, while I am forced to hear
and stay awake in the room next door. I think
you all are charming boys. I relish your hump

and pant and fart and spit and slap and frequently
violent approach to my hospitality. Come again,

you males, deride my pearls and my hem. I will
stand here majestic like Liberty or Truth
or Justice or your wife and take it, take it, take it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"My Diva" on bookshelves now!

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of "My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them," edited by Michael Montlack. The book looks beautiful and I'm very proud to be a part of this wonderful celebration of women by some of the gay men who love them.

Here's my essay on Margaret Dumont, but please go here and buy the whole book, it's terrific!

Margaret Dumont: Duchess of Dignity

Margaret Dumont was called "the fifth Marx Brother" by Groucho, appearing in seven of their films. In each, she played the comic foil: a stately society matron who was a perfect target for the boys' insults and jibs. Unlike some of the other divas, she was not a subject of adulation, but rather has become someone for whom I have empathy. She played the role of an often-oblivious woman whose only purpose was to be made fun of. This is a lesser known kind of diva, but an important one. As much as gay men identify with the glamour of a screen siren or a disco diva, we also have always been drawn to tragic figures of ridicule. Monica Lewinsky is a recent inheritor of this mantle, a society woman who becomes a target for widespread sexualized derision. It takes the special perspective of the homosexual male to rescue her, to reverse the prevailing attitude, and to put her on a pedestal as a survivor, a person worthy of dignity.

Dumont was also the still center around which comic chaos revolved. Without her, the Marx Brothers' madness had no form, no structure. I imagine the never-seen internal experience of her character and a growing rage toward her tormentors. This parallels the gay man's anger a being a target of bullies and demagogues. Certainly, she was ridiculous: pompous, hefty, and self-important. Her flaws rationalize the enmity directed at her, but don't excuse it. The viciousness of humor operates in opposition to the human necessity for tolerance and understanding. In our fantasies, like our comedies, we take delight in behaviors that wouldn't be acceptable in our real lives. The sadism shown toward Dumont is the sublimation of those darker impulses toward misogyny and even rape in the deepest reaches of the male psyche. Dumont is punished by the Marx Brothers for no longer being sexually attractive and for representing the power found in social position and money. For this, she must undergo humiliation. If she isn't destroyed, she may become the castrator.

This weak stab at Freudian interpretation aside, my attempt to imagine Dumont's pain is analogous to any gay man's attempt to connect with the glamour and emotional freedom of a more conventional diva. In fact, my groping toward empathy for Dumont embodies that creative leap from observation to identification that is the hallmark of the gay man's love of his diva. That it can be applied not only to the victorious siren and femme fatale, but to the forlorn, forgotten, fat, and fatuous as well, is, to me, moving and transformative.

I never thought the Marx Brothers were all that funny. They were barbarians and bullies, stupid and self-aggrandizing. But something in me responded to their cruelty. When I was in the fourth grade, with my parents involved in a bitter separation, I took my confusion and hurt to the schoolyard. There by the tree next to the swing set, I became one of the Marx clan and mercilessly teased and taunted an outcast, a boy named Mark with a round face and funny square glasses who spoke in a stilted, strangled voice. I made him my bitch, calling him names and pushing him in the dirt. I relished making him cry, tears drawing a path down his face towards his mouth open in a round howl of surprise and pain.

My favorite teacher, Mrs. Brady, witnessed my torture of Mark, and I'll never forget her confusion and dismay as she asked me why, why had I targeted this poor boy with such ferocity? And then I felt flooded with shame, felt it rising in my own throat like bile. It was my first and maybe still my most intense experience of being ashamed, greater than any based on my latent sexuality. I had become my disapproving father, my rough brother. After that, I know somehow that I couldn't live my life managing my own pain and fear by transforming into an aggressor. It felt too terrible to have a person I admired like Mrs. Brady show me to myself as a bully.

Eventually, I tried to make amends to Mark, befriended him. At first he was wary and uncertain, but after a while I learned his solitary games, began to share his complex inner world of dreams and fantasies. For the rest of my life, I would carry with a special sympathy for the underdog, the misunderstood and the maligned. I make no claims to perfection in this; I'm still too aware of the seductive pleasure of sadism, the glee and sexual thrilled of kicking someone when he's down, but I know I am unable to sustain that mode of being in the world.

Gay men get a lot of labels and proclivities slapped on them. At worst we are vain, shallow, obsessed with image and externals, sex-crazed drug addicts. At best, we are image-makers, czars of style, and wielders of wickedly delightful wit. But in my personal experience, we are most often alternating between a trio of roles: the outcast feeling fat and excluded by the cool disdainful beauties, the tormentor who cackles "Get her!" and points toward the frump sitting on the barstool across the room, and the rescuer who recognizes the beauty and dignity of the maligned.

It's so hard not to keep seeing other gay men as a united front of unapproachable, shirtless clones. The challenge us to reach into that swirling mass of bodies and recognize a person who you can cultivate as an individual with his own secret history of pain and resilience. At best, gay men are ultimately kind because they understand derision firsthand and know at their core what it is like to be excluded. Margaret Dumont wore her ridicule on her face for all of us to see, with only bemusement and faked obliviousness as her protection.

There was a myth about Dumont, promulgated by Groucho, that she never even got all the jokes and insults targeted toward her. That was a fib. "I'm a straight lady, the best in Hollywood," she later said. "There's an art to playing the straight role. You must build up your man but never top him, never steal the laughs." Dumont played the dupe, but it was an act, a role that showed us the power of punny punctures that the Marx Brother's used to deflate pomposity. But for me she will always remain a duchess of dignity in the face of ridicule, only her eyes secretly communicating the diva's ultimate message, "I will survive."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Panel on Wednesday

On Wednesday March 25th at 6:30 PM the NASW-NYC LGBT Committee will host a Career Panel.

The meeting, as always, will take place at the LGBT Center on West 13th Street.

Speakers and topics are as follows:

Annemarie Redelmeier, MBA, LCSW

American Cancer Society Doctoral Grantee

University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work

Annemarie will speak about Social Work Doctoral studies.

Liz Margolies, LCSW

Executive Director National LGBT Cancer Network

Liz will speak about starting a non-profit organization and her experience in private practice.

Christopher Murray, LCSW

Christopher will speak about being in private practice

Polo Jean Louis, MSW

Polo will speak about his experience with a lengthy job search in a difficult market.

Shaun Adams, LMSW

Assistant Program Director The Prince George Hotel/CUCS

Shaun will speak about the job search from and employer’s point of view.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On POZIAM Radio next Sunday

Hey, all! I will be talking about the experience of younger guys who have HIV on POZIAM web radio this Sunday night. Topics will include: where do young poz guys go for support when they find out?, how can they find other guys their age who are poz?, how do they deal with disclosure to friends and family/, how do they negotiate sex and romance?

Listen in Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 9pm EST, or check it out later when you can at: Or call in and share you experience at 347-215-9442.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Diva - At a bookstore near you soon!

I'm terribly excited that my essay on The Marx Brother's comedienne Margaret Dumont is coming out this month! Check it out!

My Diva
65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them
Edited by Michael Montlack

“There is something about these larger-than-life stars that represents our yearnings for vindication, in which we see ourselves transcending the difficulties a gay man faces in this world.” —Edward Field, on Gloria Swanson

From Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler, and Diana Ross to Queen Elizabeth I, Julia Child, and Princess Leia, divas have been sister, alter ego, fairy godmother, or model for survival to gay men and the closeted boys they once were. And anyone —straight or gay, young or old, male or female —who ever needed a muse, or found one, will see their own longing mirrored here as well.

These witty and poignant short essays explore reasons for diva worship as diverse as the writers themselves. My Diva offers both depth and glamour as it pays tribute with joy, intelligence, and fierce, fierce love.

Michael Montlack is professor of English at Berkeley College in New York City. He has published two chapbooks of poetry, Girls, Girls, Girls and Cover Charge. This book was inspired by his love for Stevie Nicks.

A sampling of contributors and their divas include:

Virginia Woolf by Brian Teare

Margaret Dumont by Christopher Murray

Bessie Smith by Sam J. Miller

Lotta Lenya by David Bergman

Marlene Dietrich by Walter Holland

Grace Paley by Mark Doty
Eartha Kitt by D. A. Powell

Anna Moffo by Wayne Koestenbaum

Rocío Dúrcal by Rigoberto González

Liza Minnelli by Jason Schneiderman

Laura Nyro by Michael Klein

Ricky Lee Jones by Timothy Liu

Margaret Cho by Kenji Oshima

Princess Leia by Christopher Hennessy

For more information regarding publicity and reviews contact our publicity manager, Chris Caldwell, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:

New Groups!

I'm enrolling now for three groups to start at the end of March, 2009.

-A 10-week Life Coaching Workshop I'll co-lead with Jack Bethke (

-A 10-week psychotherapy group for gay men in their 20s and early 30s.

-A 10-week psychotherapy group for gay men in their 20s and early 2-0s living with HIV.

Please contact me via if you are interested or would like more information.

Thank you!