Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Open Letter to Bravo

Dear Bravo, even though you are responsible for inflicting Christian Siriano on an unwitting public, I must say that you've offered quite the run of entertainment these past few years. Project Runway introduced the genre of reality shows with contestants who actually have a talent to contribute to society, and for that welcome respite from the boozy sexcapades of The Real World and the celebration of treachery that is Survivor, the American public will have you to thank for classing up Reality TV just a bit. However, the visceral reaction of disgust that welled up in me once I saw the promos for Date My Ex pretty much confirmed to me that it's time for us to have a talk. I don't know whether it was the heat, my hunger, my contempt for Jo De La Rosa and the transition to pop princess that she's trying to make about 18 years too late, or all of the above, but when I saw the poster in the subway and actually entertained the thought of setting fire to it, I knew that it was time to talk. Simply put, your programming slate sucks. It is dismal, awful, mortifying, and frightening, and I'm not just talking about Jeff Lewis' lips. You have managed to re-brand your network into a showcase for unappealing reality "stars" who have achieved little more than marrying rich (The Real Housewives), having great abs (Work Out), or having appeared on other Bravo reality shows (the aforementioned Date My Ex and most likely some awful concept that is close to getting greenlit as we speak).

Now, I do realize that outlining problems without any solutions is nothing but bitching (although the bitching is fun), so I have a few suggestions:


Because, honestly, I'm waiting for one of these fools to look off camera and ask for a line half the time.

2. A Large Bank Account Does Not an Inherently Interesting Person Make

Pick a Housewife, ANY Housewife, and I challenge you to find a more boring person on television. And yes, that includes Brian Williams.

3. Get Off of The Horse, Already...

Project Runway was great, then Top Chef was ok, and then Shear Genius was kinda boring, and boy did Top Design suck, and, man, even Nomi Malone herself couldn't save Step It Up and Dance, and she was working her ass off. Who even won that show anyways? Exactly.

4. Rich Assholes Aren't Entertaining When They're Real

In America, we LOVE rich assholes, and we love shows and movies about rich assholes, and I think we all secretly want to be rich assholes, but we don't really like to watch real rich assholes be rich assholes in reality shows because they remind us of the rich assholes that most of us have to deal with in real life, and, besides, most of the rich assholes in real life are devoid of the depth that writers can give them in scripted shows, and while (as per suggestion #1) we know that your producers are working overtime to give your rich assholes personalities and snappy dialogue, it's not really working, and the rich assholes that populate most of your shows lack the self-awareness required to pull any of this stuff off. So, perhaps maybe you could, you know, build a few shows around people who aren't rich assholes.

5. Awards Shows Aren't Your Thing

Even putting aside the irony that your A-List Awards weren't attended by anyone who could be EVER be mistaken for such, the show was a disaster. When your own reality stars look embarrassed to be there and the award itself looks like something that may be rejected from use at the Gay Porn Awards for being a bit too tacky, you may want to heed the signs that the universe is sending you and reconsider making this an annual thing, although I must admit it was kinda funny seeing the guy who won for having a great ass in the Sex and the City movie accepting the award as if it were a Nobel Peace Prize.

So there they are, 5 suggestions that, if heeded, may put you on the right track, although I suspect that you don't see the brick wall in front of the train, and in that case you may be beyond helping. But please, if you hear nothing else, hear this: don't never, EVER pick up The Millionaire Matchmaker for another season and we'll call it even. Pretty please?

P.S. - Bonus credit will be given if and when you finally release this on DVD, because having the ability to see Whitney Houston telling Bobby Brown to kiss her ass anytime I want to would forgive a multitude of sins. Even Million Dollar Listing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Z-List Ascendancy is Now Complete

I give you...

Me on Perez Hilton

The only thing that would've made this more complete is if they had ran a picture of me and scribbled a dick on my mouth or something, but I must say it's still pretty cool. Perhaps I should get a DUI or flash my balls getting out of a limo now?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Color of Patriotism

Right now, the big story in the media is Barack Obama‘s trip overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, he’s brushing up on the foreign policy credentials, looking presidential, and basically doing everything that the next president of the United States should do. On the dying political party and half-dead political candidate front, John McCain is presumably somewhere figuring out where Iraq and Pakistan are on a map before he makes yet another huge gaffe that his pals in the media will ignore. Anyways, while doing a little internet surfing, I came across some pictures of Obama in Afghanistan, and while the pictures were with service members that were predominantly of color, I must admit that I was shocked by some of the online reaction to this. I’m a bit of a political junkie, and since the majority of my friends are inline with my own views, I lurk on different political websites to see what people are really thinking. For better or for worse, nothing brings out the truth quite like the anonymity of the internet, but even with that said I was actually pretty fucking disgusted at just how shocked people seemed to be that, you know, there are actually black and Latino service members in the United States military.

In all honesty, the U.S. military is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever worked. While it isn’t without its racial and class issues, it is a place where it is not entirely uncommon for whites to be below blacks and Latinos in rank. Place that little nugget in contrast with the civilian population in which people can go their entire careers without ever having a boss of color, and you’ll see how progressive the military actually is in this respect. This whole situation also got me thinking about how patriotism is framed in this country and exactly who has ownership of patriotic principles. You see, when the right-wing attacks Michelle Obama for her perceived “ungratefulness” and questions Senator Obama’s love for his country, they are continuing a time-honored tradition of portraying blacks as somehow less than patriotic, one that was further ingrained in American culture with the “Welfare Queen“ hysteria brought about by Reagan in the ‘80s.

The image of the American soldier that you see when you close your eyes is probably that of a fresh-faced white male, his piercing blue eyes positively shimmering with love for his country and noble restraint. I mean, isn’t that what we’re shown by Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers and the rest of the assorted Army propaganda that we’re subjected to? Of course, that is a perfectly valid image, but is it more valid than the immigrant who actually serves his country to gain citizenship, or the black girl who joins the military to help pay for college because her parents can‘t afford it? Or what about me? I’m the black gay guy, the double-minority who should feel more put-upon by this big, bad country than anyone else, right? Well, not so much. I love my country because I believe that it is a place where anything can happen for anybody, and I have been known to engage in heated discussions in defense of it. People like myself, those soldiers, and, yes, Senator Obama, scare the shit out of smaller-minded people in this country because we are examples of people of color taking ownership of this country in a way that we have almost never been allowed to before. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe that more people haven’t seen those pictures for a good reason, and that is because they defy the narrative about patriotism that has been subtly embedded into our society and forms the image of that soldier that you see in your head. Obama’s presence means that the color of patriotism is becoming a little more broad, and I think that what an Obama presidency will be able to inspire in terms of patriotism among those who have never been thought to be patriotic will be great for the country. For our country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This is it....

So it's damn near midnight, I'm getting up at 6:30 to hit the gym, and before I go to bed I stumble upon this video on youtube. I watch it at least 5 times before stopping and taking a breath. There is a part of me that can't believe all this is really happening, that a simple guy from Akron, Ohio is about to be on national television and got the opportunity to even compete for something so huge. The part of me that will in some ways always be that overweight little gay boy in high school feels very proud, like I've actually achieved something that most people only dream about. It's a great feeling, and it gives me power, purpose. The feeling in my gut is telling me that things are really about to change. For whatever happens during the course on the show, that guy in the blue shirt is me, and he's a winner. Now that is something to hold onto....

Friday, July 18, 2008


So, I had the day off of work (Thank God, 'cause it was a looooooong week) and I figured it would be a good time to finally book an appointment for headshots. If you're not in "the biz" (and, you know, I'm not), headshots are basically your calling card. I figured that with the Diddy show premiering in a few weeks (and that can of worms is opening up in about 24 hours with the debut of a flashy new trailer that I'm simultaneously dreading and absurdly excited about), I should have some sort of professional pictures of myself taken just in case someone wants to contact me or whatever, fine. People need to know what you look like and need promotional pictures, and I also didn't want to be the only one with some grainy and badly lit facebook picture on the famous VH1 friends website they're setting up for the show. So I get hooked up with a photographer and I go to the studio on West 38th (a grimy, smelly, loud part of the city that I really hate), pony up the $100 and spend about 90 minutes taking pictures. Now, here's the thing with me and pictures. I'm not photogenic. I'm just...not. I have these big eyes, a lantern-shaped head, and summertime in NYC sometimes gives me the distinct appearance of someone who has replaced their facial moisturizer with a bucket of Crisco. Anyway, I have this theory about goodlooking vs. sexy. You can be either sexy or good looking, but very few can be both. On my good days, I can possibly be sexy, but never really good-looking. In my younger and more, shall we say, blunt days, I told a friend that he was good-looking but not really sexy and was honestly confused that he got offended by it. Either way, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Anyways, this guy was so damn good, I managed to get about 35 good pictures out of 120. Percentage wise, that's around 25%, so if this were a test I'm pretty damn sure that's an F on my part. Maybe I should take modeling school or something. I swear, I kept hearing the voice of Tyra Banks in my head, coaching those hungry little girls on America's Next Top Model ("Smile with your EYES." "Don't do this, do THIS"). Who knows, maybe she knows something I don't, 'cause that girl will give FACE all day. I must admit though, it was fun, and I may or may not have had visions in my head of that Carrie Bradshaw scene in the Sex and the City movie where she gets her pictures taken for Vogue and the Ciara song is playing in the background (You know exactly which one I'm talking about). So now I've got my pictures and I'm hoping they serve their phantom purpose fine, and with the overhaul of my myspace page, I'm ready for the sure to be A-list fame that will come from being on a VH1 reality show. Right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There is a certain image on the cover of a certain magazine named for my great city that is getting a lot of attention right now. Apparently, some magazine editors and cartoonists thought that it would work as satire, and decided to place an incendiary image with racist undertones on the cover of their once respected periodical. I won't feature it here. I won't go on a rant about how offensive the image is. I won't highlight and dissect the racial imagery in the picture. I won't even write a thoughtful piece about the lack of people of color in the newsroom, a problem which greatly contributes to colossal and insensitive blunders like the image in question. No, I won't do that. What I will do is take the lead of a man I greatly admire and rise gracefully above the mess that has been created, and privately continue with the hope that our country is slowly but surely getting over its final real bout with intolerance before we ascend to the greatness we're capable of...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trifling Negro Of The Week.....

So, apparently this fool (some rapper named Yung Berg who nobody will remember 5 years from now) is "kinda racist" and doesn't like dating dark-skinned women (story here, and God forgive me for linking to Media Take Out). *sigh* I don't even know where to go with this one. Unfortunately, colorism still runs rampant in our community. A long time ago I dealt with this issue in an African-American studies class when it dawned on me that dark-skinned black girls have virtually no chocolate sisters to look to in the media (Gabby Union, Kelly Rowland, and diva deluxe Naomi Campbell are the only ones I can think of), and I realized that dark-skinned black men like myself simply have more positive images of us floating around. I've been told many times in a complimentary way that I favor both Chris Tucker and Wesley Snipes, both men whom I find incredibly attractive. Hell, even Out magazine, the whitest of the white gay rags, has a chocolate-skinned black model grace the cover or its layouts from time to time. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the last time I saw a black woman any darker than Alicia Keys grace the cover of a mainstream fashion magazine.

As for Yung Berg (and no, that's not a typo, just how this fool spells his stage name), I'm sure the irony that he is further perpetuating memes of white supremacy that have been disseminated throughout our society for generations would be lost on him. In fact, I'm sure that he would probably need a dictionary to deconstruct that last sentence. As a dark-skinned black man myself (and don't get it twisted by that well-lit profile pic, this chocolate is dark), it is an issue that used to follow me around a great deal. Knowing the phrase "black is beautiful" and learning how to believe it are two different things, and perhaps that is something that starts with the parents (who never taught me that specific lesson, but thankfully didn't teach me the opposite, either). I'm extremely critical of what the media is trying to portray as "beautiful", mainly because more likely than not that is something that I can physically never be, and also because many people have a lot to gain by maintaining whiteness as a standard bearer of physical attractiveness.

Anyway, what this boils down to is that black people are beautiful in all of our colors, from creamy caramel (Boris Kodjoe, Beyonce) to dark chocolate (Tyson Beckford, Serena Williams. Mmmmmmm, Tyson Beckford. *sorry*), and Yung Berg is this blog's inagural Trifling Negro of the Week for failing to realize that. *sigh* Hip hop, we have GOT to do better than this.

P.S. Grillz were over after Brooke Hogan rocked them in that wack-ass video with Paul Wall. Do you really want to look like this?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sisters are Doing it For Themselves....

One thing to do when you're the lesser-known albeit talented sibling of the biggest pop star in the world is to so thoroughly separate yourself from her that there is no denying the differences between the two. Like many of you, I was just not checking for Solange Knowles. I mean, who cares? *crickets chirping* Sure, I liked that cute little song she did with Lil' Romeo a few years back, but I never really put much thought into her as an artist. Well, when I heard the song and saw this video, she pretty much demands attention.

First off, the video is the most interesting thing I've seen in the format in quite some time. The colors pop, and the visual style is something a bit different from the ever so boring "beaches, rims, and clubs" themes that make so many videos today virtually interchangeable. She's really doing something different here, and it shows. I'm a big fan of the song as well. Unlike some singers who hollowly imitate the soul-sounds of the '60s (note to Ms. Winehouse, your black background singers no longer lend authenticity to your "soul" singing after you've been caught on video smoking crack and singing racist children's songs), she really seems to be feeling it, and I like the visual homage to the different eras.

I've gotten more interested in her stuff the more I hear of it, and since (let's be real) this is an artist who's going to need all the support she can get, I fully plan on buying her CD and even checking her out in concert. Maybe you guys should, too...

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Buck Stops Here

You know when you really want to do something, but you don't really do it, you just tell people that you want to do it? Well, that's me with this damn book. At some point within at least the past 2 years, I've been kicking around the idea of writing memoirs in my head. You know, you get some good feedback from a few professors, and all of a sudden, you're a writer, right? Well maybe not, but have you read some of the shit that's being smeared on pages and sold for $25 these days? The Vixen Diaries and On the DL and that crap? That was some 9th grade reading-level stuff right there, and you know it's true. I mean, I'm a black gay guy who served 4 1/2 years in the U.S. Army including 6 months in Kuwait and close to a year in Iraq. There's gotta be some good stuff in there, right? Well, there is, and it's juicy, but the hard part is trying to structure it in my mind.

Was it hard? Well, yeah, but it was also funny, sad, terrifying, thrilling, and life-changing. What is the tone? I certainly don't want to write some sad-sack earnest memoir about a band of brothers or some shit, because that doesn't exist outside of, well, Band of Brothers (that HBO miniseries that is supposed to be superb but I refuse to watch). The Iraq war isn't The Great War. It isn't even a good war, and isn't even being fought for a good reason. It's just some bullshit that a lot of innocent soldiers like myself got caught up in inadvertently, like when a gang leader sends his gang to jump some asshole for smudging his shoes. But it did happen, and there are a lot of things I need to own up to and deal with, and this is the best way to do it. For now though, I think I'm finally about to take this journey. I don't know how long it's going to be or what it's going to be like, but I know I'll have a sense of closure once it's done.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Fabulous Brunch

Okay, okay, I've heard that my evisceration of Rue B in the East Village below was a bit harsh, so to balance it out, I had an AMAZING brunch at a restaurant on 8th and Avenue A yesterday. Poached eggs and salmon on top of mixed greens with a slightly sweet balsamic dressing and a Mimosa. Divine. Absolutely divine. Maybe there is good food to be had in this city that doesn't come from my kitchen after all...

....On Broadway

So on Thursday, I was called back by the VH1 People to shoot some more stuff for the show, and I found out that the location of the shoot was right by the theater where Passing Strange, a show I've literally been dying to see for months, was playing. I figured I could use the opportunity to try to get $25 tickets, and, lo and behold, they weren't sold out! (A note to all the broke people in NYC who still love theater, most shows sell rush tickets for around $25. It's still not cheap, but compared to the $110 that Broadway tickets usually go for, it's a steal. Try here for more info)

What more can I say about this play that hasn't already been said? It is a masterpiece, honest and true, and it speaks more to the middle-class black experience than any work of art I've ever seen. This show is about that entire gray area of the African-American experience in between poor folks and Huxtables, about a young man who is trying to figure out who he is and is having trouble connecting to the more bourgeois trappings of his middle-class lifestyle (writer Stew, who won a Tony Award for this show's book, takes a few pointed satirical jabs at the black church, in particular). On a whim, he decides to take a trip overseas, and the play is a chronicle of this journey, complete with new sexual and life experiences, and ultimately an appreciation of where he came from, narrated and guided by a future version of himself. Yeah, it all sounds like a bit much, but it is staged and performed brilliantly, and isn't hard to follow at all.

Personally, I am more than used to being the pepper spot in the crowd of mostly older, white theatergoers, and furthermore, used to seeing the middle-class white experience portrayed onstage (recently and most brilliantly in August: Osage County). I was thrilled, however, to finally be able to see a story that I identified with so intimately. This show is very current, very fresh, and very honest, and for once I felt like I was on the inside of what the writer was trying to say because I feel like I have lived so much of this story. Passing Strange is literally about "passing", whether it be the lead's grandmother who passed for white in the Jim Crow days, or the fact that I am able to "pass" as a straight man until I decide to make my sexuality known. It is also about the complicated emotions behind such passing, and the reasoning behind the attempts in the first place. There is a point in which the lead character becomes famous in Berlin for adopting the persona of a ghetto youth from the inner cities of America and passing it off in his music. His over the top performance is played for laughs, but there is some deep, uncomfortable truth to be found in this instance. What middle-class black person hasn't adopted a little 'hood speech from time to time to fit in against the accusations of "acting white"? Who must we be to survive in the real world and still maintain a sense of self? What is real and what is fake? When are you "passing", and when are you being yourself?

Aside from the intriguing questions that the show brings, there is always this exuberance I feel when I see black actors on a Broadway stage. Whether it's great (this show) or not-so-great (the recent Cat On a Hot Tin Roof revival), it is always great to see people like me in an art form where Blacks are so thoroughly underrepresented. From the looks of the audience, I would guess that Passing Strange isn't long for this world, but the fact that it exists is revolutionary. What is exciting about this play and others, like Thurgood and In The Heights, is that it seems like the Broadway paradigm is shifting to become more inclusive for its artists and theatergoers of color, and that there are more options for all of us. That, in and of itself, is almost enough to get me to pay $110 for a Broadway ticket. Almost :P

Passing Strange is playing at the Belasco Theatre at 111 West 44th St