:: Thursday, September 09, 2004 ::
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:: Friday, November 07, 2003 ::
:: BrothaOut 10:08 AM [+] ::
The Brothas Who Are Out
:: Sunday, September 14, 2003 ::
It is finally autumn and with abandon we throw ourselves into its sensuous luxuries: bejeweled sunlight bathing glittering concrete with an elegant matte, winds whispering sweet nothings that promise stealed kisses in a burgundy and tangerine October frost. The weather, the headlines, the bottom line? None matters. The Yankees have lost: hey, comme ci comme ça. Well, maybe next year. We are back into smart outerwear with the sharp accessories of scarves and caps jauntily angled over well-rested eyes squinting in the harvest sun. The brothas return to a sense of fashion and decorum, embracing our natural propensities to style and grace, products of generations of strivers. We look for people to see, places to go. But where?
The city winks, the scarecrow points us to the right road to Oz.
We sidestep the poppy fields and land in xl. Demarko is playing and the club’s constantly changing moods of light agree with the spectacle of fall outside. Martha Wash appears at El Flamingo in “The Donkey Show” and we get a dose of Shakespeare via Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston in the long-running show. Brothas administer a walk-through at Lenox Lounge, an inspection of the much beleaguered Tuesday night gay fest “Nectar.” We are starving for a venue in Harlem with a black gay menu. Is that asking too much? Prayers are answered when an invitation lands in the inboxes of brothas out on the town: the Up party at Bayou on Columbus weekend. Oh, what a night! This is an event, an evening to savor up the stairs to a Cajun restaurant. The music is on point and the crowd is inviting and free-spirited. Could this be heaven on Lenox Avenue? Brothas pinch themselves and remind themselves that they can cast their fates to the wind: the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, A, B, C and D trains are all within easy reach, and we once again realize the potential of Harlem.
The pace has quickened in autumn and all easy hesitancies and excuses are cut to the quick. We simply cannot say no. We voraciously absorb all the quality media, ready to discuss all aspects of the gay rights movement and the ongoing news in the black diaspora. We seek out all that’s exciting and new. A new documentary, “How Do I Look” is being called the sequel to “Paris Is Burning” and we discuss the white homegirl on Whoppi’s new sitcom. A heated argument flared as brothas discussed the thought process of gay rights and the new civil rights. And did you know, we implore over cocktails at a Chelsea bar, that 198 of Fortune 500 companies now offer benefits to gays and lesbian partnered employees? We are seasoned minglers, stalwarts of the cocktail set. At East of Eighth brothas are easily disingenuous, eyes on the empty calendar, hoping for engraved invitations to upscale events. Brothas stop off for chebu jeune and prick their ears to Wolof mixed with Fanti and Bambara at a Senegalese haven off 116th and Lenox. On 125th MAC opens with an homage to Liza, an ironic twist to an icon’s career embroiled in an ugly tabloid marital breakout and – sidebar – this is the bitch who beat out Miss Ross for an Oscar a many years ago! At a bar on Christopher Street a signboard urges: “Slap him again, Liza!”
We’re in the glow of love and all of us focus on Luther. Patti and Aretha’s at bedside and word that his voice? Well, it’s back! Well, sort of. We can’t get in to P. Diddy’s party at Show, the former Times Square palace of porn, but we ain’t mad, we clocked him in Harlem on 5th Avenue, the last leg of the New York Marathon and the impresario huffs and puffs across the finish line, respectfully finishing and raising millions. We will catch him at the victory party but it’s in Harlem that he gets the high-fives. Times Square, after all, has been remade from a zone of supposed urban blight into one of the city’s showcase of urban renaissance. Should Harlem be so lucky? We shudder to presume.
Manhattan’s the most storied of places; no one can dissent. Everyone wants to experience its magic. Then what? Brothas dart off to far-reached environs but we can’t escape the ultimate phenomenon: the out-of-town guest! Guests come and I panic as usual. Where will we go? Well, Manatus on Bleecker, as usual, three mispronunciations of a Village retreat. Mexicans wait to serve our soufflés, our watches blink-blink, all times are in sync. When do we eat? We get half-priced tickets to a Broadway show. “Millie” with Leslie Uggams. We are amazed at this gem of a show; why did we wait so long to see it? Afterwards we dash over the Therapy and catch an amazing evening with Billy Porter. New York City on a Monday night! Amazing!
I instruct my guests on improvements in the quality of life in New York City. The entire sex industry has gone underground and there are no more black bars. We sing lamentations to Chances Are?, formerly Two Potato, the dysfunctional stepsister to Kellers, another defunct dive that Giuliani drop a house upon. There are war counsels formed, military maneuvers rethought, the drag queens mind their manners for once as they move into the shadows in the back of Chi Chiz, the Chi Chiz regulars raise their eyebrows and consider their move to more respectable environs. But where? My guests are uncomplicated and undemanding. We go to the Monster and momentarily forget the racial polarization of this gorgeous mosaic.
And then, the season’s first major event: We are at Town Hall for Broadway Inspirational Voices 10th anniversary concert. Our seats are in the nose-bleed rafters, far from the VIP ticketholders below, but we are mesmerized. At intermission we flock to the bar and the street outside, eager to hobnob with Maurice Hines, Stephanie Mills, Freddie Jackson and Star Jones. The entire original cast of “The Wiz” seems to be here and a smattering of “Dreamgirls,” Broadway and road shows. What a glorious cross-section of New York: church women who’ve been out this Sunday since early morning, theater people there to cheer their peers and stalwarts of the Talented Tenth of Harlem and Fort Greene. We are in good company: Geoffrey Holder’s sons are jaw-dropping gorgeous and we nod our admiration of the bone structure of Andre de Shields, the hour-glass figure of Jennifer Holliday. Patti Labelle is special guest and she proves that for the consummate diva no rehearsal is necessary, just cue cards and sheer talent. Looking very space-age as she did on her last album with Nona and Sarah, Patti threw down, and even the folks in the 250-dollar seats got a groove on.
Phylicia Rashad and Patti Labelle with Michael McElroy
Halloween masqueraded as Gay Pride complete with sweltering heat and police barricades. The parade came in two acts, the first being the ascent up Sixth Avenue, the second culminating in the finale on Christopher Street. Bars were packed to the rafters and the Pier teams with soccer moms and their brat packs alongside Chelsea boys and bridge-and-tunnel drag queens. On a Friday night with temperatures hovering around 80, Halloween never looked and felt so good. There were Halloween parties in Brooklyn and Jersey City and a legendary one on West Broadway in an infamous loft that ended, uh, abruptly. We repented our sins on All Hollows Day and partook of a colorful festival at City College with an intimate performance by N’Dea Davenport. The next day it seemed the Christmas decorations were already up, and we started our countdowns to the holidays.
The brothas are unashamed public figures seen in the most unlikeliest of places. Seen in the front windows of Better Burger on Eighth reading “The Fortress of Solitude”, or at the party given by Blair Boone on West 41st and 11th-hour cameos at the tacky old-school night at Roseland. Brothas exchanged reviews of “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Wicked” over mojitos and mango margaritas at Plaintain on West 38th and pooh-poohed Michael Baisden’s radio call-in show when he took up black men on the DL. How passe, we sigh. We are preoccupied with home improvement and plan excursions to Ikea, Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Pier One. We are in Christopher Lowell mode, and brothas plan elaborate yuletide parties and Kwaanzaa gatherings and everyone is looking for a housekeeper and a painter accomplished in faux finish.
I have decided that the vast empty wall in my kitchen will be painted Embassy Purple with jeweled undertones. A rich Ralph Lauren shade reflective of my present mood. I am feeling regal for once this year and my usual optimism soars at death-denying heights. My heart beats wildly as I turn to next month’s calendar. There are so many things to do. I bought a copy of Colson Whitehead’s “The Colossus of New York” for myself and for him. I light candles strategically and relisten to jazz, neo-soul, blues. Women singing opprobrium. A walk in the fallen leaves upstate, an 8 a.m. telephone call, a smiling face under the celestial galaxy at Grand Central Terminal. This is what I had missed and reclaimed. I change my Yahoo profile with a new photo and a quote that fits my new mood:
I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. Shug Avery, The Color Purple
I have noticed the color purple yet again.
Oh! This is the first anniversary of my blog! Who would’ve thought it would’ve come this far? And in honor of my jaded readers, all fabled brothas out on the town, I’ve reconstructed Sondheim. Cheers!
THE BROTHERS WHO’RE OUT
(to the tune “The Ladies That Lunch” by Stephen Sondheim)
(Spoken) I’d like to propose a toast.
Here’s to the brothers who’re out –
Give a hip-hooray
Confident same-gender loving no doubt
Hang with the guys
Ever so witty
Cool as all that
Sex and the city
(Spoken) Does anyone still read Zagat?
(Sung) I’ll drink to that!
And here’s to the fellows that win –
Aren’t you impressed?
Charmingly gestured with subtle chagrin
Another lounge for VIPs
Another front-row center
A pre-fixe tease, a wine and cheese
Another room to enter.
I’ll drink to that
And one to front-row center!
And here’s to the guys who stay home –
Isn’t this just bliss?
Strongly dismissing their urges to roam
With a haughty hiss
The ones who would never convey
That they themselves are actually gay
Too much a price for real men to pay
Aren’t they a gem?
I’ll drink to them!
Let’s all drink to them!
And here’s to the men who aspire –
Aren’t they so sweet?
Always beating their way to the fire
Of the gay elite
An orchestrated snap is made
Another brilliant reading
A fierce tirade, some rum-soaked shade
Another frenzied feeding
I’ll drink to that.
So here’s to the boys on the go –
Rantings and railings are all just for show
A toast to all the men with the clout
The men who know what it’s all about
Let’s hear it for the brothers who’re out--
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
:: BrothaOut 9:58 AM [+] ::
Try to Remember
:: Saturday, August 09, 2003 ::
We will not think “Hot Fun in the Summertime” when we think of the summer of 2003. Nor shall we fondly recall mimosa-soaked brunch gatherings at Martha’s Vineyard or elegant surreys to picnics in Asbury Park or even luxurious lounging at the neighborhood pool. No, at upcoming fall social gatherings we will jabber on about a summer missing in action, a season in absentia. In between the glorious uplift we felt after yet another episode of a straight man gaining a queer eye, we will remember torrential rainfall for days on end at the start of rush hour, erratic subway disruptions, threatening skies holding siege over weekend after weekend, causing all but the most confirmed optimist to escape from New York. And when we escape, then what? One brotha fresh in from JFK, dropped his Gucci luggage at the Christopher Street watering hole and gave us cause to see the forest despite the trees: “Dahling! You think New York was bad! You should have been in that hell hole of a chateau I stayed in on the Left Bank! For two months! Paris is sizzling, baby, and, when there is no air conditioning in the whole damn city, it is not a pretty picture!”
There are fond memories of the summer, of course. In broad brush strokes, summer 2003 will be dramatic pastiche for posterity. The season redeemed itself on one dog day of August. It will be remembered with exalted story-telling finesse for that mid-summer night unscheduled block party: The Blackout! How New Yorkers fared yet again in the eyes of the world, orderly evacuation, nonexistent crime, campouts in Times Square and free watered-down ice cream! Never mind the fact that a 20-block taxicab ride could set you back $100, and only if you had made it to the ATM before the lights went out, or the realization that all the things we hold dear -- cable television, Internet service and, hello!, air conditioning -- were snatched from our high-tech grips, we settled into party mode, revved up the grill on the fire escape or balcony and had an old-fashion community get-together. So different from the Summer of Sam, 1977! For years we will savor those moments and, with soft hues of sentimentality, remember where we were when the lights went out in New York City.
As far when the lights came back on, my memory will be overshadowed by one dramatic life-changing event: a medical crisis! As in my own! For days I had been fighting a summer cold that turned into bronchitis. So the day of the blackout I hopped on a bus to my doctor, only to be turned away at the lobby when electricity on the entire Eastern seaboard was zapped. Feeling still a bit feverish but better than I had in days, I started a 40-block trek back uptown, proud of myself in not letting a little cold get me down. But by midnight I had a migraine headache and by dawn I had problems breathing. By noon, fearing pneumonia or worse, I pulled on my best starched white underwear (I am my mother’s child, after all!) and packed my carryall carefully like I was going to a European spa. I had decided I would not call 911; I would gracefully walk into the emergency room with my Louis Vuitton, like it was a routine scheduled facelift. My hospitalization would stretch into four days, enough time to for me to concede that this was not the spa; this was serious. Hospitals will do that to you. But amid all the bloodletting, the probes and jabs and ominously scribbled physicians notes, I was amazed. As I walked into the hospital with a blinding headache, shortness of breath and sweat pouring off every inch of my body, a miraculous calm enveloped me. This was the first eye-opening revelation: I was not afraid! Doctors and nurses pulling double shifts due to the blackout were attentive and professional and I -- dreading the less-than-impeccable care I was certain I’d receive if I pissed them off -- planned my strategy: I would be a model patient. That they were African Americans, West Indians, East Indian, Africans and Asians, people of the Diaspora in positions of authority, I quickly got over any feelings of foreboding that normally comes with being helpless and institutionalized. I was in good hands.
Four days later I was walking home in the crisp late summer sun, feeling invigorated and charged, almost as if nothing had happened if you would ignore the wounds for blood withdrawal. Though I would live, I would have to live with monitoring my blood pressure, a regimen involving diet, exercise and three types of medication. But with that verdict came other information, better news: With all the testing, it was determined that there were no other major medical issues and that my life and lifestyle for the most part would only undergo minor upheaval as I adjust to new strategies for continued wellness. As I walked home, stopping off at CVS to pick up my prescription and making a pitstop at the produce section of Pathmark, I was hit with the gravity of my ordeal. One day I was quote-unquote fine; but the next day. . . Oh, precarious life! As I looked into the sky as I slip my key in the front door of the brownstone where I live, the tears, held at bay during my four days at the spa, flowed. No day but today.
Nothing like escaping the grips of the Grim Reaper to make one pensive and reflective. And, when that because boring, pious and cavalier. I am not one who savors the idea of dying alone, and so when I was hospitalized I used my cell phone, battery blinking dangerously low, to call my friends to alert them of my impending doom. And they happily rallied to my bedside pronto, most of them earning their hospital visitation wings during the height of the AIDS epidemic. And these wise men came bearing gifts: lotions and floral bouquets, fruit baskets and Michael Baisden novels. Big Macs from Mickey Ds to wreak havoc on my brand-new low-sodium diet. Well-meaning friends with concerned eyes and hidden agendas; friends who come to test the limits of friendship even as you linger precipitously at Death’s door. New to the ordeal of being a patient, you fumble to find your patience. You are at the mercy of your visitors (you cannot just hang up the phone, get up and leave!) and as you endure all of that inescapable and unconditional love you are yet again awash in the emotional tide of the inner child, loved imperfectly at best and never in your own best interest. I crawled back into a fetal position when one visitor picked up my medical chart and began perusing it like he was auditioning for a role on “General Hospital”. His eyes arched judgmentally like my mother’s forty years ago and my protestations -- evasion of privacy, I charged -- were met with that mantra I am hearing more and more from my well-meaning friends: “I am just being me!” This is the private insular only child in me that once again was being disrespected. I whine on the verge of a temper tantrum: “You’re supposed to be nice to me! I’m the one that’s sick!” Another friend’s visit was so depressing in that woe-is-me place of darkness that I contemplated running down to the gift shop and getting a basket of fruit for him! But eventually (well, days later) I would have to chuckle. My closest blood relatives are 500 miles away and were purposely not told of my medical condition for the purpose of insuring that they would stay away. If they were here though, would they be any different? Prodding, judging, happy in their status of visitor, they would walk out to the reception area at the close of the visitors period beaming that they had done their duties for the sick and shut-in, all while I lay in hopeless fetal position clambering for my high blood pressure medicine. So friends, it turns out, are just like family: Loving, loathing, thoughtful and self-righteous. Regular pains in the ass. In the fluorescent light in Room 16D, Bed 1, it was all too clear: My friends, imposters all, had shown their true colors: They were family.
After placing my patient bracelet in a scrapbook alongside my discharge from the military, I resume my life. I got new glasses and summoned one of my quasi-hustler friends to my apartment to cut my hair. Feeling like a candidate for a Jenny Jones makeover, I contacted another quasi-hustler cum personal trainer and scheduled crunches and aerobics at New York Sports Club and ordered online some fall ensembles from Mens Wearhouse. As the pace picked up gradually I ventured into the haunts: a cameo at Sprung for Keith’s birthday, a Sunday-night walk-through at Splash. Brothas talked about everything but the weather: the Kevin Aviance interview in Instinct magazine, the Emanuel Xavier hosting of PBS’s “In the Life”, the cast of “Take Me Out” at the posh midtown venue Therapy. I lived vicariously through the brothas out on the town as I stayed home and ate tofu and fruit in my boudoir, missing the Monday drama club at The Green Room, the Gay Center dance in the East Hamptons, the Vogue Ball at Opaline with that “Paris Is Burning” soul survivor Willie Ninga.
Labor Day came ahead of schedule and brothas blew sighs of relief as they settled onto last-minute flights to Atlanta for In the Life and New Orleans for Southern Decadence. New York seemed cold and lifeless as summer closed, much as it had when summer opened. There was an air of loss, an elegiac lament for lost opportunity. The summer was over and here we are at the start of September with all these mixed feelings. Brothas on the desolate streets of New York over Labor Day weekend lamented the death of Gregory Hines; a tribute at the Apollo is plan for September 21st. Savion, Ossie, Ruby and a host of other luminaries will be there and we vow to be in attendance as well. We are pulled away from pop sound bites with irony, news at 11: the murder of Amiri Baraka’s daughter: a gay hate crime? Channel 7 news reporter Steve Bartelstein in a gay scandal quietly swept under the rug? Embracing the notion that men are like Mars, we revel in our closeness to the red planet: Mars makes its closest pass by the Earth in 60,000 years and we look up into the infinite sky and try to incorporate that vastness into our small and complex world.
Brothas, like the seasons, return predictably and we gear up for the fall. The New York Times Fall Preview is poured over voraciously. By the advent of Eastern Standard Time, we will be back in our element, cruising at that mach speed of high energy that comes with falling temperatures and fallen leaves. Brothas were among the first to see “Little Shop of Horrors,” predicting the show to follow the success of another 60s musical, last year’s “Hairspray.” Brothas showed up at CBGB for Bearapalooza, the literary showcase celebrating all things big and hairy. Performance artist Jhon Valdez was a hit and the brothas snapped their fingers approvingly to his elegant poetic slams. Tompkins Square return to its position as Wigstock headquarters and the old-school drag queens showed up to answer the eternal question: what becomes a legend most? Brothas stuck their heads into the new East Village spot of the moment Nowhere and no one was convinced that the East Village from ready for its comeback. Some of the younger brothas, in their unquenchable thirst for the idiosyncratic, lined up at Javitts Center for “American Idol” auditions, while older brothas secured tickets through Telecharge for “Fame” on Broadway. Well, off-Broadway, purists sniffed. We quicken the pace as we plunge headlong into the inevitability of autumn, at the Dancers Responding to AIDS performance at Bryant Park and at the Empire State Pride Agenda bash at Fire Island Pines. Brothas gravitated back to New York’s newest historical district, the Meatpacking District, for the Sunday party at Cielo, Frankie Knuckle’s homage to Better Days. Conceding to the path of least resistance, we show our faces again at Brooklyn Sensation, prodigals sons returned. We leisurely mingle with the black elite at the Katherine Dunham tribute with Wynton Marsalis and hob knobbed with the grassroots at the special sneak preview of “The Fighting Temptations” at Magic Johnson’s in Harlem. At Hue-Man next door we grabbed the new coffee table book from Michael Henry Adams, “Style and Grace: African Americans At Home.” How exquisite it is, brothas coo, to open our book and see ourselves. We love what Gordon Parks and Charles Rangel have done with their homes but the prize goes to one of the brothas we know and love, David Flemming. What a jewel box you have created! Feeling a premature breeze as we nibble on the sidewalk in front of Settepani, brothas make plans to take in the Urbanworld Film Festival: “Brother Outside,” the documentary about Bayard Rustin, and “Jesse’s Closet” will be among the gay-themed offerings we have decided are must-sees. We will be among the glitterati at the opening festivals of Carnegie Hall’s brand new Zankel Hall, taking in Omar Sosa, Anna Deavere Smith, Youssou N’Dour and Dianne Reeves. And paving the way for Broadway Inspirational Voices’ 10th annual gospel concert, to be held this year at Town Hall on October 19, some of the brothas will drop in on a benefit for the choir, “Mahagony: Reflections on Vanity” at Joe’s Pub. We are feeling very ho-hum on the cusp of Fashion Week. We remember the soca-blaring, steel-drum-banging, sequins and feathers frenetic waterlogged extravaganza on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day and decide it is too soon for unnecessary drama.
As the most dismal summer in recent memory draws to close, we look to the bluest sky, a dead ringer to that infamous one of two years ago, and listen as children read the names of dead blood relatives to the world. Just the word September now carries a heavy load and we try to remember better days when we were innocent and carefree. We are aware that we send off mixed feelings as we steady ourselves in a brand new world with new rules but do not apologize for the incongruities. We often have to rethink our feelings and motivations; we are thankful for the luxury feelings and motivations. As they eye the long shadows of autumn the brothas realize the emotional cost of a rush to judgment. As we pull sweaters from the far reaches of our collective closet we readjust our perspective. Maybe the summer wasn’t so bad after all.
:: BrothaOut 3:14 PM [+] ::
Black Pride NYC 2003: Reflections on the Down Low and the Out and Proud
:: Saturday, July 19, 2003 ::
Tent Revival: Black Pride NYC 2003 at Riis Beach
There was an epiphany, a pulse of the moment, found in one 30-second television spot, my adolescent mouth falling open in shock as I bore witness to the incredible. It was 1967 and it was a Sunday afternoon of “Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour” and, right after a tap-dance routine complete with batons ablaze, a commercial for aspirin alerted me that the world has changed. I am among the first television generation and had by then clocked in tens of thousands of hours in front of the tube, a TV vet at 12. In endless hours of solitude, I absorbed American culture presented with a decidedly white point of view and knew without a doubt that television was an honest chronicler of life. This is the way it is; a world with Negroes on the peripheral, outsider status. But on that Sunday, the change hit me as profound, deep, meaningful, too much to keep to myself. “Mama!” I screamed out to my mother in the kitchen downstairs. “There’s a colored man in an aspirin commercial. Come quick!”
By the time my mother came into the family room the commercial had segued into another one, this time back to an all-white cast, for Pepto-Bismol. But I basked in my luck. I had witnessed something that seemed to signify big change. Black people were on television; not just on variety shows but in commercials too! And, in the years to follow, change did indeed come. My generation, that first TV-watching brood, saw many changes, many firsts and television gleefully gave us fodder to mark the two-steps-forward-one-step-back progress of the civil rights movement. Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Diahann Carroll, sure. But also Huey Newton on David Susskind, H. Rapp Brown on the bestsellers list; Martin Luther King christened Man of the Year on the cover of Time. We had triumphed over invisibility. We were everywhere!
Crisis Intervention: Gary English of People of Color in Crisis at Riis Beach
The last month has felt at times as serendipitous and optimistic as those moments in 1967 when I first saw a black man (driving a bus) in a commercial for Anacin. We have gay reality shows, and a gay bishop, and every day articles are written, intellectuals weighing in on this new phenomenon, gay rights. We have broken through, one more door opened, more firsts. But this is not 1967 and so much is complex, television is deceitful, the media merciless. The high we experienced around Gay Pride in June seems distant now, only six weeks later. An angry Pope again vilifying homosexuals, a horrible murder in City Hall with suspicious gay undertones, another black role model embroiled in a sex abuse scandal, a whistle-blowing New York Times Magazine cover story on down low black men. By the time the Black Gay Pride celebration arrived, we were depressed. Promotional materials for the New York City festival of course were proofread thoroughly and sent through focus groups for input, I’m sure. But it is this year that I noticed that, yes, it is Black Pride. But whatever happened to Gay?
Well, much to my chagrin, Black Pride – uh, Black Gay Pride – steps to the plate and comes to the rescue. With all the negative headlines, this was the place to be, a place to heal. Starting off the weekend was the Black Gay Research Group Summit which set the mood for the entire celebration. Presenters at the Brooklyn Marriott presented papers addressing a variety of our issues and concerns and we were reminded that Black Gay Pride New York City is not about only parties, it is about family, dialogue and solutions. Fort Greene Park and Riis Beach was outfitted with sweeping white tents, modernist and regal. An elderly woman takes the crowd by a storm when she hits the dance floor to wine down with best best of the batty bois at Fort Greene Park and a drag queen who is also a minister prays and dares the crowd to release the negativity and embrace the love. And the crowd does. Then some one said it, “A tent revival, this is like an old-fashion tent revival!” And it was. Despite confusion due to two management groups with separate web sites and publicity material, brothas got into the groove and luxuriated in events like the White Party midnight boat ride, the open celebration at the Marriott with Jennifer Holiday, an appearance by Jody Watley at the picnic and Loleatta Hollaway holding court at Riis Beach. Brothas jump-started the festivities at the packed-to-the-rafters “Sprung” party at Bar D’o, with the artist Mark Durham’s illustration gracing the walls. Renaissance man Michael Henry Adams waxed nostalgically about Langston Hughes and Niggerati Manor in his annual “Homo Harlem” tour and brothas were fortified by the influx of out-of-towners at Brooklyn Café, Day O’s, Langston’s and Chi Chiz. Talk was upbeat but the brothas couldn’t help recapping commentary from the tabloids: Poet Emanuel Xavier, who knew Othniel Askew, the murderer of James E. Davis, called Askew a “sweet guy” and christened Davis “a political metrosexual.” We lamented the fall from grace of too many black role models, the latest Kobe Bryant; senseless deaths: Davis, Dennehy, who next? In the middle of the black pride guide, an advertisement from James E. Davis, a posthumous congratulation to the black gay community, seems ironic. In life we hardly knew him, in death he gains ascension, familiarity and is forever immune to a fall from grace.
With angst in check, brothas tackle the social scene with gusto, our eyebrows raised at the long afternoon shadows that spell the winding down of summer. Labor Day Weekend comes especially early this year, the relentless rain mocking our fear of summer’s end. In Brooklyn, brothas catch Lillias White with the Philharmonic and catch wind of the workshop for a new musical based on the film “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” Darius de Haas is exceptional, insiders say, and Billy Porter triumphantly recovers from being yanked from the cast of “Little Shop of Horrors,” his role in “Fools” a good fit. Still celebrating the birthday party for Central Park, brothas climb to the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir to see the 100-year-old fountains turned on for the first time. At B.B. Kings, while awaiting Heather Headley’s performance, brothas talk about that cute new film “Camp,” about kids at drama camp. If only there had been a drama camp back when we were teenagers!, we sigh. A long wait in line at Cielo in the Meatpacking District sparks a discussion of how so many of us black men are still struggling with accepting our homosexuality. I was agog when an acquaintance happily gushed the news that he was again seeing someone. A woman! As he giddily told me all about her, inserting the sidebar, “You know I’ve never really been gay; you know that I think of myself primarily as bisexual at best.” And he seemed hurt that I didn’t blurt out, “When’s the wedding?” A 42-year-old man, formerly married with two children and a messy divorce. And he’s singing, “Let’s do it again!” Jesus Christ!
The down low exposé in the Times caused some heated debate among the brothas. Amazingly, there was a lot of justification aired about the down-low lifestyle and of course brothas pointed out the writer was a white man, ‘nuff said. And there were friends who could not bring themselves to read the article, or discuss HIV statistics among black men, or even admit to the existence of homophobia within the black community. I am sitting in a gay bar in the largest city in the country in 2003 and we are still in denial. So much for Black Gay Pride. We order another round and the conversation moves on to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Was the movie really that bad? The brothas hope so; we are feeling schadenfreudean and are out for blood.
Read more about Black Gay Men in NYC at
Snap Magazine Online:
:: BrothaOut 5:51 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, June 26, 2003 ::
And so the world turned upside down.
Revolutions, life-changing events, a move from what was once impossible into something more in the realm of possibility, good riddance to ignorance, a nod to progress. Is it really possible that a Supreme Court, so recently derided for the decision that ushered in the Bush administration, can so quickly become the catalyst of a more enlightened humanity? Supreme Court decisions, we know full well, have often been decrees that meant social tragedy: Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Regents of California v. Bakke. And so we applaud vociferously those landmark decisions that seem to say to the country that we are changing -- positively, for the good of all. Brown v. The Board of Education. It was a court decision that spelled a movement to another level. Slow, yes, but progress nonetheless. Lawrence et al. v. Texas can confidently be placed in that category. And the world turns upside down and we are giddy and hopeful.
And oh, the launching of the domino effect! The last two decisions of the year, affirmative action upheld and a one-two punch on anti-sodomy laws in 13 states! Homophobia, a TKO. The planets line up strategically, the moon in the seventh house. Strom Thurmond and Lester Maddox, the last of the great Southern segregationists, move on to their just rewards in the underworld and Maynard Jackson ascends unto heaven, along with Ivan Allen, his mayoral predecessor who helped to usher in Atlanta’s new civil rights age back in the ‘60s. Canada embraces gay marriage; Massachusetts is poised for its own pro-gay marriage vote; the Boy Scouts, with corporate funding at an all-time low, quietly considers accepting gay members; and England’s House of Lords votes to zap Section 28, the infamous law banning “promotion of homosexuality in schools. Amazing, these earth-shattering changes, executed with a diva’s orchestrated finesse and all unfolding but a few days before our very own big fat Greek wedding, Gay Pride Day!
The Supreme Court snapped Bowers v. Hardwick, and we, the children of the world, snapped too. In Z formation! Especially in New York City where it is reputed to have all begun. Gay Pride this year had more . . . well, meaning. At least to those who care about worlds turning upside down. And those who don’t could pretend it was all just a party and do so without embarrassment or fear of arrest for sodomy. All of the island was Emerald City. The Pride Rally, The Sheridan Square celebration of the Supreme Court decision, rainbow flags everywhere, not just the Village or Chelsea and the Empire State Building is bathed in lavender light. The whole city felt gay-friendly. Same-sex couples smooched in Bryant Park and Times Square. Harlem brothas sat a little closer at Native and Nikkis, knees touching knees flamboyantly as we conspire over lattes at Hue-Man Books or Orbit. The Garden Party seemed a little more important with the inclusion of gay rapper Caushun and “Divas With Pride” rose the emotions to the stratosphere with Martha Wash, BJ Crosby and Marga Gomez, weathergirls for reigning men. The brothas were seen everywhere representin’, out of the closet and into the street, even if most waited for sundown. Perhaps they needed the better part the day for reflection and genuflection. Perhaps they were resting up for the parties at Octagon and 667. The Black Pride benefit boatride was nifty although it is clear that this annual event will eventually morph into an all-girl party. But brothas saw it as a necessary respite from the bottleneck traffic clogging Christopher Street and were shocked to hear of disturbances on the beautifully restored West Street piers, guns being drawn, crowds stampeding, police reminding us that even on this momentous and gorgeous last Sunday in June, things can easily return to Giuliani time.
And, miraculously, some brothas, particularly ones of “a certain age,” stayed home! Such is the success of the modern gay rights movement: It is no longer necessary to go out and “march” for rights that you already have or will have soon enough, if we could just calm down and be patient. The conversations in the aftermath amazingly centered around our same old issues: Finding that special someone for, as one brotha lamented, what’s the point of gay marriage if there is no one for me to marry? So self-absorbed, another one says. Crying about not finding a man when men in Egypt are being executed for being gay and so many of us still haven’t learned the importance of safe sex. A flash from one brotha addicted to the Internet: Calcutta just had its first gay pride parade! A transgendered woman is running for Congress in Mexico. Singapore has removed gay job discrimination. And Johannesburg has its first black gay bar! Yes, chile, we sigh over apple martinis at xl, we are the world, we are the children.
Back to life, back to reality. We are not yet free. The ink of our emancipation proclamation is not yet dry and we anticipate conspiracies and subplots blocking our way to first-class citizenship. Should we be totally out? Get married? Have children? Enlist in the military? So many options we suddenly have. Is this the brave new world we have been longing for? It is a little dizzying, so we change the subject and talk about less exalted things. Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” seems a continuation of that tired new trend of metrosexuals and we feel offended by the concept, straight men embracing things gay. Isn’t that like how the sistahs felt when Bo Derek got those braids and the media presented it as something new? Bravo’s “Boy Meets Boy” reality show is suspect as well. There can never be a reality show that the brothas will be satisfied with and after “American Idol” what else is there but “Fame”? At Day-O’s we chattered excitedly about Beyoncé and her need for finishing school, an APB for the services of Ophelia DeVore, but we like her anyway and attribute her less-than-perfect persona as a byproduct of youth. Her star has risen, and she won’t turn into a monster by 35, but the jury is still out on Ashanti.
The July sun bakes us as we meander on the pier, breezing through gay current events: Michael Savage is fired from MSNBC after telling a caller he “should die from AIDS.” Harry Potter, it turns out, is gay, or will be soon. And Wendy Williams on her VH1 debut asks Queen Latifah The Question. We make plans for Fire Island and will decide -- any day now -- whether we will go on the Black Gay Pride boatride. Eighty dollars we can easily drop at any of the more upscale watering holes, but to pay this amount in order to be holed up from midnight to dawn on a boat with God knows who, well, some of the brothas just can stomach the iffyness of it all. But we love those Black Pride folk and the children at People of Color in Crisis, and promise to show up at all the other events, especially the freebies. Contrary to popular belief, none of the brothas are materially driven intentional archetypes of the bourgeosie. And eighty dollars, we sniff over our third happy-hour cocktails, has to be strictly budgeted, our precious time carefully allotted to projects that will promote our lofty social agendas.
But seriously, the Boat Ride sounds like a good thing, and many of the brothas who have decided to go are planning their costumes, all-white attire being suggested by the planning committee. And wasn’t that something about Abercrombie & Fitch, that revered clothier of the white upperclass, whose hiring practices have been made public: Scandanavian good looks mandatory for sales positions, all others apply for the stockroom? At Therapy brothas fill out the rest of the July calendar. We will see “Madame Sata” at Film Forum. It’s a Brazilian cinema about a true life drag queen and so it will be deliciously discussed at fall cocktail parties. We thought the Homo Harlem tour would be a good way to embark on Black Pride NYC. Michael Henry Adams is so regal and we know the dinner at Native afterwards will be quite cute. The performances by Jennifer Holliday on opening night and then Loleata Holloway at Riis Beach Black Pride Sunday are musts, so a quick trip to Moshood for a cute Africentric ensemble is imperative.
E. Lynn Harris is all over the place, plugging his memoir that tells all. But where were the brothas at his New York booksignings? At Barnes & Noble Astor Place and Hue-Man in Harlem, this was a meeting of Essence women. But even with the no shows, brothas dutifully read his book and gave it stellar reviews. Everette Lynn, we feel your pain and love ya, girlfriend! Now, when is that Showtime series gonna hit the airwaves? And who’s gonna play Basil?
Talk turned surprisingly to sports as brothas showed their jock quotients in lively discussions about that cute Maurice Greene being replaced by the even cuter Tim Montgomery as the world’s fastest human and that dynamic sistah duo holding reign yet again at Wimbledon. Yankee’s Bernie Williams wins accolades when we discover all that brawn is kept in check by an artistic side: the release of his debut jazz CD is a critical success and we languish and sigh, knowing full well that he can strum our pain with his fingers anytime. Speaking of baseball, one brotha chirps, is it true that Ben Afflect is pursuing the film rights for this year’s best play about homophobia in sports, “Take Me Out”? Oooh, we swoon, the casting possibilities for that one! And how will they execute those shower scenes and still maintain an R rating?
Bars on Christopher Street were quiet for a few hours one afternoon as a commemorative vigil passes by on the way to the pier. It is Fierce!, the Village gay youth advocacy group and the Audre Lorde Project, celebrating the life of Sakia Gunn, the 15-year-old lesbian murdered in a gaybashing incident in Newark on May 11. Our lives are far from rosy and carefree and we are once again reminded that that progress is slow and painful. A brotha whispers of friends gay-bashed in Harlem and the Bronx, of ugly incidents all over New York of miscarriages of justice involving racism, classism and all the other isms convenient used to continue the hate. Stony the road we trod.
* * *
We are in the throes of summer. Beach parties and barbecues and getaways to exotic locales. We run into folks from Atlanta and Washington and Chicago on the streets and promise to get together for drinks. We run into celebrities: Isn’t that Freddy Jackson sitting over there in the corner? Quick, Frenchie Davis just strolled passed the window! The brothas, in Native New Yorker mode, don’t make a fuss. Stardom comes easily in the Big City and who is more fabulously famous than any of us, brothas out on the town?
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:: BrothaOut 7:56 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, June 01, 2003 ::
Charles Holt in "Broadway Bares 2003: Burlesque is Back"
The first full day of summer came half-ass, like an understudy unsure of his lines. Spring had shown its might and spite with 27 days of rain in the last 50 days. We are forever tuned to the Weather Channel and NY1 for Weather on the 1s. Umbrella sales are down: umbrellas are only bought when a purchaser is caught unaware. Everyday everyone expects rain. There was a neediness, an anger, a feeling of victimization that permeated throughout the region. Is this Seattle? London? The Amazonian rain forests? We think of “Rain, Rain Go Away” songs: Tina’s “I Can’t Stand the Rain”; Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain”; and a query from Boys II Men, “Can You Stand the Rain?” Well, it seems we can. Dodging raindrops we rush out to our important appointments, all indoor events. And before we could complain once more about the weather, here comes the sun! Summer turns out not to be an understudy who has forgotten his lines. Summer, with only a minute onstage, turns out to be a star!
Pent-up New Yorkers take to the streets in droves and New York becomes it happy old self again. Sidewalk cafes are doing a brisk business and we slow our pace long enough to marvel at the luscious growth of the trees. Spring, we finally realize, is not our enemy. The greenery is immense and we are once again friends with Mother Nature. We pause again to admire the human spectacle, bodies beautiful and not so beautiful, in various stages of public undress. To marvel chests and legs and feet that we have not seen since autumn! It may have been a cold and gray spring, but it will be a hot and colorful summer. There is so much to do!
But the Brothas have already been doing it. We don’t let the drizzle stop us from stopping by the Govinda Vegetarian Buffet Cart at 52nd and Park for a lunchtime chat about happenings around the city. Loved Dance Africa at BAM and the Times article on party planner/motivator Lorne Hughes. We braved a downpour to check out the Greenwich Village Festival and skipped all the satellite outer-borough gay pride parades. Queens Pride was prudently overlooked – we will see the same crowd at Puerto Rican Day. Brooklyn Pride was rained out; we saved our energies for 667 on Sunday night. And Bronx Pride? Only a Bronx cheer! We flocked to indoor events: Caribbean and Latin Fine Art Exhibit, the “Hairspray” book signing and Suzan-Lori Parks reading from her debut novel at Barnes & Nobel Astor Place. Over appetizers at Native on Lenox brothas discussed the pairing of Patti LaBelle and Jaheim at Radio City and made plans to get to Central Park early to see Chaka Khan and her daughter Indira Khan at Summerstage on July 5th. And July 4th? Fire Island or Sandy Hook? We will save Riis Beach for Black Pride in August. The spring rain paused mercifully for us to squeeze in a Brooklyn barbecue. The conversation centers around – predictably – watering holes and the absence of suitable venues for upscale black men. But first we had to collectively define the term “upscale.” A euphemism for bourgeois? A word with connotations of elitism, classism, exclusivity? A return to the brown-bag test? Well, yes. And no. One brotha’s perspective is this: upscale is an existence without “That Element.” And every middle-classed, well-bred and highly educated black gay man knows that “That Element” means those who are not us. And never will be.
Like clockwork, arriving to fill the void is Sprung, the new Thursday afterwork party for “upscale black gay men,” or so the listing in Next optimistically proclaims. Sprung’s venue is the long-standing gay bar Bar D’O at Bedford and Downing, an out-of-the-way spot with an understated sleekness and upholstered style. After a month Sprung has emerged as the hot spot of the moment and is causing an optimism among brothas who are upscale – or upscale wannebes, but definitely not That Element – and who have never seen so positive and urbane a venue since the closing of The Comfort Zone. The crowd is definitely not your run-of-the-mill crowd seen everywhere else. Yes, some of the faces at Sprung are also seen at Day-O’s on Fridays and 667 on Sundays or during happy hour at Chi Chiz, the Monster or the Hangar. But what invigorates the mix are the brothas who show up who you’ve never – no matter your popularity quotient or your collection of overlapping social circles – seen anywhere else. Where do they all come from? Brothas who clutch their pearls at the mere mention of the word “upscale” smartly stay away, so there is no need for shade or that sort of high-brow dismissal that the black middle class is famous for. Everyone miraculously talks with everyone. Cliques and claques are parenthetical and fluid, an opening of borders, an embracing of all. The business man in Armani talks candidly with the artist in jeans and baseball cap. The unemployed sales rep in linen who has redefined himself as a consultant has a bouncy chat with a suited director from GMAD. Business cards and Palm Pilots are favored props, but brothas still resort to doing it the old fashion way – a name and number scribbled on a slip of paper. Sprung starts older then becomes younger as the evening marches on. At 6:30 the afterwork crowd seems older: forties with a smattering of thirties. They are in corporate or corporate-casual attire. By 9:00 the median age has dropped perhaps 10 years and you see more denim, Sean John and Phat Farm. The music carefully bridges the generational divide, dexterously mixing house, rap, neo-soul and the music of our youth that we like to call classic soul. And on the heels of Sprung is a new party at Moca in Harlem. This Tuesday night gathering is a continuation of the direction forged by Nathan and Nathan, the innovators behind Sprung, giving so many brothas, upscale or not, a badly needed social outlet. Now, if someone can do something with That Element!
New York is ever changing and brothas are staying one step ahead while looking back nostalgically to better days or, if not better, at least days they felt were rightfully their own. Brothas come into the bars of Christopher Street gushing over the beautiful landscaping and renovation of the piers. Over apple martinis we recall with relish the bad old days when the piers were dangerous and decrepit and deliriously decadent. We would run back and forth from Keller’s to the pier to catch the impromptu vogue wars, keeping a careful eye out for a QT to entice to a dark corner of the pier where anything was possible. Now the pier is clean, the vogue children are gone and when asked if Paris is burning, we sadly say no; the fire is definitely out. Brothas pour over the New York Times and learn that New York’s 77-year-old cabaret laws – the antique laws banning dancing in clubs without cabaret licenses – may be overturned or at least rewritten. We recall the days when you could walk into Two Potato on a Sunday afternoon and throw yourself into a throng of men dancing and screaming to Whitney Houston: “I want to dance with somebody!” in 12-part harmony. Then the crackdown on dancing by the Giuliani administration that started the decline of nightlife in New York and the demise of scores of bars and clubs where infractions were found. Most of the younger brothas are unaware that back in the day there were scores of gay watering holes in Harlem, the Village and Brooklyn that were gay every day of the week and where you didn’t have to wait until midnight to travel to a secluded warehouse and pay $20 to dance. Let’s hope that a dismantling of cabaret laws will spell a return to a healthier New York nightlife where piers are beautifully renovated and bars and clubs are places where we can dance.
It is Gay Pride weekend – the big one! – and most of the brothas are tired, a byproduct of too many distractions to pencil in as not-to-be-missed events on social calendars. But when is there time to rest? Brothas donned leather (well, some of them) for Folsom Street East and others caught Stacyann Chin at the Rally and saw Madame Sata at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. We applaud Nilo Cruz, our Cuban brotha who won the Pulitzer Prize for “Anna in the Tropics.” His next play is “Beauty of the Father” about a bisexual father, his daughter and the man they both love and we’ll be there in first mezzanine. Advanced copies of E. Lynn Harris’s long-awaited memoirs landed in the covetous hands of some of the brothas and the buzz is that it’s good! We have bought the paperback version of “The Emperor of Ocean Park” and christen the author Stephen L. Carter an honorary gay, and an upscale one at that! The boy knows his way around Oak Bluff, Sag Harbor and Washington’s Gold Coast! We compare the works of James Earl Hardy and Antonio LeMons and can’t wait until L.M. Ross comes out with another potboiler. Until then, Matt Johnsons “Hunting in Harlem” will suffice. Brothas made it to the sold out sizzling, “Broadway Bares” and oogled over dancers Charles Holt and Desmond Richardson.
Brothas chomp on miniburgers and scallion waffles at Shag and the talk turns inevitably to Broadway: “Little Shop of Horrors” needs work and will postpone its opening two months to October. “Wicked,” the new Steven Schwartz musical about what happened to Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy, is a hit in San Francisco and will open on Broadway in the fall. And the “Hairspray” songwriting team, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, famous for the Big Kiss at the Tony Awards, will collaborate on a new musical based on the hit Steilberg film “Catch Me If You Can.” Over arroz con pollo at DRK way uptown we chitchat about happenings around the city: the “Sex and the City” premiere at the American Museum of Natural History, Jay-Zs sports bar opening, the Black Pride NYC Benefit at Langston Lounge, the premiere of Soul Jam Wednesdays at The Supper Club which featured a stunning performance by Freddie Jackson. We talked excitedly about the commitment announcement of a black gay male couple (imagine that!) in the Style section of the Times and cackled over the newest phenomenon, “metrosexuals”, straight white men with a gay penchant for interior design, high fashion and pedicures. Chelsea boys with wives, we sniff. We applaud Canada’s granting of full marital rights to gay couples and plan Amtrak jaunts to Montreal when the fall foliage is at its peak. Over martinis at Therapy brothas pull out Palm Pilots to organize the summer’s focus: A Sunday stroll in Central Park in recognition of it’s 150th birthday, a night of slumming in Dumbo to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Williamsburg Bridge. We are considering checking out “Flow”, the performance piece written and performed by Will Power at P.S. 122 and will catch “From My Hometown” before it leaves town. Some brothas, in a show of solidarity, will party with the Gay Arab Society at Pepper on Leonard, then jump in with the GMAD contingent in the pride parade, then jumped on the boat with James Saunders and Black Pride.
Gay pride! Embraced in some form or fashion by the brothas. Upscale. Downlow. Wannebes. Usetabes. MSM, pomohomos, same gender loving, thugs, thug princesses and simply gay, goddammit! Metrosexuals too! And a nod to That Element! Thirty-four years have passed since the cops exerted its force at a little bar called Stonewall, starting a revolution. History did not start there but it is important to note that we – brothas! – were there. We were there long before. And we are here now. We are brothas who know our histories, black, gay and otherwise, and we are an endangered species that has survived. New York City is a tough place and we are exalted in our quest for relevance and permanence, a piece of the action. Brothas out on the town or actually brothas out and proud. The rain is gone; the sun has returned and we are out. The summer begins.
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:: BrothaOut 6:31 AM [+] ::
Memorial Day has come and gone, the first day of June is here and still no sign of sunshine, blue skies. Weekends are water logged, April showers drown May flowers as we look up into the steel gray skies and wonder aloud: What the hell is going on? The year so far has been hellacious and stressful, world events and Mother Nature conspiring to wreak havoc on short tempers on the verge of chronic rage. New York feels dismal and disconsolate, a low-grade fever made all the worse by the chill. Police have shed their hero status and reverted back to Giuliani time, innocent citizens of color maimed and killed, the doors of law-abiding people broken down, citations given out for sitting on milk crates or taking up too much room on the subway. I had always said that if ever it got to the point that I felt myself a victim of the city I, too, would imitate the white flight trend of a different era and make my escape from New York.
But so far that hasn’t happened. I still have a roof over my head; it has been years since any one was killed at the corner bodega. And I still am the holder of two jobs -- jobs where I have time for personal projects, positions where I can often come and go as I please. I am certain this will not always be the case so I have become frugal to a fault, squirreling money away for the inevitable time after receipt of the Pink Slip. Everyone at work is nervous and anxious as people are laid off. Laid off -- a euphemism that sounds almost quaint and hopeful despite the reality of hopelessness. We dare to leave early from work to take part in protests of wrongfully fallen citizens, the civil servant in Harlem who died of a heart attack after a police grenade raid, prayer vigils for Barry and Luther, a rally for a West African immigrant killed by New York’s Finest, an email sent on company time to MCI that dropped Danny Glover as its spoken because of his criticism of President Bush. We seem to live in another more sinister time -- not quite the horrors of World War II but we are reminded how innocently monstrous events begin.
Despite the madness I keep a stiff upper lip, like London during Blitzkrieg. Friends complain to me about everything imaginable: Subway fare hikes, the weather, unfaithful husbands, conniving girlfriends, health problems, sexual inactivity, boredom. I am bored with their complaints. Who do I complain to other than my Lord and Saviour? There is something in me that prevents me from expecting happiness and bliss. When was I last happy? Rarely have I been unhappy; contentment comes to mind when I reflect on my life. In contrast to my friends’ complaints, contentment feels extravagant. Happiness is elusive and rare; contentment for me is a genuflection of acceptance of life’s realities without all the trappings of fear, victimization and blame and certainly with none of those sentimental dreams that don’t and won’t come true. On the occasion of my birthday I sat down with a yellow legal pad and composed a collection of lists: My life’s high points, low points, accomplishments, setbacks, friends, enemies, people who have come and gone that have made a difference. It was a moving experience. I realized again that I am blessed. My simple life! I have decided to seriously pursue putting it down on paper, if not for the vanity of bestowing on myself a certain level of self-importance, then at least to try to make some sense out of it. An autobiography oozing contentment is just what may be needed for Oprah to start up her book club again!
Ennui was fought on a grand scale by brothas tired of bitching about their pitiful predicaments. They took in Shanice and Rasaan Patterson at Black 2 Broadway and marveled at the boldness of Sarah Dash’s attack of LaBelle hits. Brothas hit the Octagon in droves looking to relive those U-Men U-Sweat days and nuzzled up to glitterati at Dance Africa and the stellar Bill T. Jones/Cassandra Wilson collaboration. Brothas boasted of being on location for the Beyoncé Knowles photo shoot in lower Manhattan and were caught by photographers covering the opening bash of the new club Access on Park Place. Brothas speculated on Whitney and Bobby’s escapades in Israel and Mariah’s upbeat interview by Wendy Williams. Brothas were in shock upon hearing that Moca, Harlem’s latest upscale watering hole, now has a Sunday Lesbian soirée and gave kudos to Miss Ross who strutted her stuff at the Dennis Basso fashion show at Cipriani.
We ignored the bad weather and hit the black gay mecca, Washington DC for Pride Weekend. This was my first visit in ten years and I must say it was just what the doctor ordered. Finding a bargain hotel room on priceline.com, I splurged on the sleek high-speed Acela train from Penn Station, New York to Union Station, Washington. Oooh, living large! Brothas started off the weekend at the Friday party on the Gold Coast in Upper Northwest, a tantalizing mix of gorgeous Caribbean and African-American men, lettered and pedigreed with A-list credentials, everyone on his best behavior with the impeccable decorum and refinement of Miss Manners. We braved the cool back patio, linen garments blowing in the breeze and discussed careers, relationships and the happy circumstance of our being in so special a space, far from the screaming ill-bred children standing in line for access to Bachelor’s Mill and the Edge.
Saturday provided a break from rain and the brothas took advantage of the respite and hit the barbeque fundraiser in Southeast. What a testament to neighborliness! The whole street was blocked off for the event, a situation that obviously required people living on the street to endure a level of inconvenience. Muscular brothas with six-pack abs and pecs for days served picnic food and the line for free liquor winded down the hill to Pennsylvania Avenue. We stopped by the Black Pride hotel headquarters and were amused to find out that a religious convention was simultaneously going on. I had thought religious zealots and out black gays and lesbians made strange bedfellows but eventually I became convinced that this undoubtedly a marriage of convenience: This was the third year the two gatherings shared Memorial Weekend at the same hotel and convention center. Say amen, somebody, for religious tolerance!
On Sunday we finally hit the convention center, which felt like your typical Black Expo, vendors and businesses barking their wares. Arise Magazine, Rundu erotic calendars, American Express, Absolut Vodka. We ran into long-lost acquaintances, making idle conversation as we looked over shoulders for someone more interesting. The hum-drum house music would play for an hour, then we would get an hour of show of performance, presentation of awards, lip-synching drag queens stuck in the seventies. Poet Staceyann Chin, fresh in from her success in “Def Poetry Jam on Broadway,” strutted her Jamaican womanist self, admitting the irony of standing ovations in America and boos in Jamaica. Brothas took her exit from stage as the cue to their exit from the gathering. The party of parties would begin in only a few hours away and some degree of primping and preening would naturally be necessary.
The Galleria at Lafayette Center is a marble mansion in an office complex, the huge winding stairs to the main ballroom a perfect piece from some urban architect fixated on the rags-to-riches opulence of Cinderella. This was not the place to go unpolished and unescorted. The Associates Spring Affair had an air of choreographed elegance right down to the menu of Southern cuisine camouflaged by a decorous French style Washingtonians have come to expect at their many embassy dinners and art exhibit openings. The jazz combo’s repertoire was 50s inspired; I was reminded of the crisp sleek fashion and soundtrack of “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” The all-male party was a handsome assembly of mature black men with graying temples and smooth skin, full mustached lips and winning smiles, exuding all the confidence and comportment earned through long associations with Jack and Jill and other institutions of the black bourgeoisie. The Associates has lost some of its shade, its fourth-generation Washingtonian elitism and has settled into the live-and-let-live laissez faire of one who’s been around the block, none the worse for wear and tear. Such gracious gatherings of black men is rare in New York City, at least in the circles this writer travels. In the Big Apple such gallantry and pageantry is suspect among most black gay men; we are still too in love with decadence, debauchery and devastation. The New Yorkers who attended the Associates Spring Affair had much to ponder on the trip back home.
Back in the City the brothas congratulated themselves on having survived a weekend in the Province and cranked up their energy levels as the jet flew into JFK, the Acela whisked into Penn Station. Patti LaBelle is in the Dining section of the Times talking about her healthy new recipes and we trek over to Brooklyn to the A&B Bakery in Brooklyn for doubles flatbread. We are traumatized: The tribute to Nina Simone at Symphony Space is sold out! So we will catch BJ Crosby at Joe’s Pub instead, followed by Amel Larrieu at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, a bargain at 20 bucks. Those limey gals Les Nubians are at Virgin Megastore at Union Square and we will use that excursion as an excuse to slumming it at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival. Gay Pride Month starts with the queens, and Queens Pride has a decided Latin flavor. Some brothas had seen “El Patio’s”, a production by Germ?n Jaramillo of the Alianza Dominicana Theater Company and during intermission were invited to a Venezuelan Miss Universe Party that has become legendary. One brotha just in from across the Pond raved at “Da Boyz,” the hot hip-hop redo of Shakepeare’s “Comedy of Errors” playing at Theater Royal, Straford East in London. Over apple martinis brothas discuss Lizz Wright’s CD, the new book about the influence of Harvard’s homosexual alums on American culture and wonder if rapper Jay-Z’s soon-to-open Chelsea restaurant 40/40 will be a hit or a huge flop. Brothas make exotic plans for appearances at high-brow events: the Caribbean and Latin Fine Art Exhibit by the Sea, first mezzanine seats at the Tony Awards, cocktail party for the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival and box seats at Lincoln Center for Dance Theater of Harlem. Over tempura at Wild Red Onion bistro brothas admire Tony nominated heart throb Daniel Sunjata of “Take Me Out” and give posthumous accolades to Howard (Sandman) Simms, the Apollo tap dance who died last week at 86, and to Miss Pepper LaBeija, queen of Harlem drag balls, who died a few weeks ago at 53.
The summer hurricane season begins today and we go on Web sites to find last-minute summer cruises. The Norwegian Dawn now leaves out of New York for the Caribbean and we will brave hurricane Ana, Bill, Claudette and the rest for an exotic getaway. We don’t trust New York weather, we are tired of inconvenience and stress and most of all boredom. As we stumble home from the city’s many stellar events we look forward to the next big distraction. With all the theatrics, drama, murder and mayhem, the brothas are still fearful of the most devastating of predicaments: Boredom!
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:: BrothaOut 4:47 PM [+] ::