Sunday, March 1, 2015

Steve Aoki on the Cover of the African Golden Cat Issue of 360 Magazine

Volume 20 of 360 Magazine is now available at Magzter and Blurb!

Known as the African Golden Cat issue, it features Steve Aoki, Bruce Springsteen, Jane Weitzman, designs by Elizabeth, Danielle Taylor, LA Brownies, Miri Ben-Ari, Alex Garibyan, and much more.

Steve Aoki discusses how his life and career were greatly influenced by his being raised as an outsider in a non-Japanese community, the origins of Dim Mak Records, how his father's passing in 2008 affected him personally and creatively, his next album "Neon Future II," and what lies ahead for him in the coming decade.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Dusky Darling Love" by Bright Smoke

Singer and artist Bright Smoke released the music video for her song, "Dusky Darling Love."

I love her voice and songs so much.

When you jump to this post on the blog, you can read my interview with Bright Smoke.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Age of Adaline

Anyone who knows me knows well my obsession with female leads, thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

The film The Age of Adaline is a heady mix of all three of these. It stars Blake Lively as Adaline Bowman, a woman who becomes ageless after an accident near the middle of the last century.

Harrison Ford plays her friend, William Jones, who reconnects with Adaline decades after they first meet–and when she should have aged decades, too.

Michiel Huisman plays Ellis Jones, who might lead Adaline toward a better understanding of herself.

The stellar cast includes Ellen Burstyn and my Twitter pal, Anthony Ingruber, who is astonishing as Harrison Ford's character's younger self.

The Age of Adaline opens in theaters on April 24, 2015. Yes, I'll be there opening day.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Will This Give Me Cancer or Not" by Attic Abasement

Thanks to starting each week morning off by listening to UC Berkeley's KALX, I'm pleased to announce my new obsession is Attic Abasement's "Will This Give Me Cancer or Not."

The song is from a split album between the band and Nod, another band from Rochester, New York.

Attic Abasement is Mike Rheinheimer (guitars, singing), J. Repp (guitars), Keith Parkins (bass), and Darren DeWispelaere (drums).

They are currently playing shows, writing songs, and making records around Rochester, New York.

The split album with Nod came out on Carbon Records on April 19, 2014.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Second Season World Premiere of LOOKING

The world premiere of the second season of HBO's gay dramedy series, Looking, took place January 6, 2015 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California.

Looking is set in San Francisco, where it was also filmed. The series centers around three gay friends: Paddy (Jonathan Groff), a twenty-something video-game programmer looking for love; Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), a former artist now adrift; and Dom (Murray Bartlett), a long-time waiter hoping to open his own restaurant.

The second season picks up a few months after the first season left off. Happily, HBO bumped up the length of this season for a total of ten episodes.

Raúl Castillo, Murray Bartlett, Frankie J. Alvarez, Lauren Weedman,
Jonathan Groff, Daniel Franzese (Photo: Drew Altizer Photography)
Before the first two episodes of the second season were screened at the Castro Theatre, the cast met with the press and posed for photographs on the red carpet.

It was great to see Raúl Castillo returning as Richie, a barber who dated Paddy in the first season.

Lauren Weedman again plays Doris, the wise-cracking, no-nonsense ex-girlfriend of Dom's.

Daniel Franzese comes on board this season as Eddie, the first gay character on the show to self-identify as a bear and to be HIV positive.

Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff, Raúl Castillo,  Murray Bartlett 
Fans of the first season of Looking know the three best friends seem to have difficulties creating healthy, emotionally intimate relationships with the men they are dating.

Creator/Co-Executive Producer Michael Lannan says Looking is about "looking for authentic ways of being in the world." During the Q&A session after the screening, he said it was no coincidence Paddy and the others find themselves at the beginning of each season outdoors and away from the noise of their city lives.

Daniel Franzese

Director/Co-Executive Producer Andrew Haigh again skips the cliched, soaring shots of San Francisco's landmarks and tourist traps. Instead, he brings the camera down to street level, where the characters actually live in The City.

The intimacy Haigh thus creates is arresting, especially during the nude scenes: you are there with the characters and feel their emotional need to connect as their bodies connect and separate. (Yes, there is full-frontal male nudity this season.)

On the red carpet, I spoke briefly to the actors. Daniel Franzese was as affable as his character Eddie.
Lauren Weedman

I enjoyed speaking with Lauren Weedman. She kept firing zingers one after another.

Frankie J. Alvarez

Frankie J. Alvarez had a sweet, intelligent focus not yet seen in his character, Agustin.

Frankie said not to give up on Agustín, be sure to keep watching the second season.

Raúl Castillo

I haven't yet seen all ten episodes of the second season, but suspect Raúl Castillo's Richie will continue to be the emotionally centered man Paddy is seeking.

Murray Bartlett

My camera battery died a moment before Murray Bartlett stepped over to me. I was happy he stopped to say hello.

Cast on stage after screening first 2 episodes of
LOOKING's second season (Photo: Drew Altizer Photography)

The cast and executive producers came on stage for a Q&A session with the audience. Here, Lauren Weedman admits she often goes off script and ad libs her lines.

LOOKING's after party at Terra Gallery in SOMA

The after party celebrating the premiere was at Terra Gallery.

Michael Denison, Murray Bartlett and his friend

When I walked up to Murray Bartlett, he said, "Nice to see you again," and posed for this photograph.

Michael Denison and Jonathan Groff

Jonathan Groff was surrounded by fans and press. I was very pleased he took a moment to pose with me.

Christopher Turner, Michael Denison and Armistead Maupin

If you're a fan of this blog, you know I recently interviewed Emmy and Peabody award-winning TV writer, director, producer Richard Kramer.

Richard worked with Armistead Maupin on the mini-series adaption of the first installment of Armistead's acclaimed book series, Tales of the City, about people living in San Francisco.

I am a huge fan of Tales, so I was thrilled to meet Armistead and his husband, Christopher Turner.

Like Tales, Looking draws you into a circle of friends you soon find yourself rooting for, as they live and love in San Francisco.

The second season of Looking premieres January 11, 2015 on HBO.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jasmine Villegas on the Cover of the Flying Squirrel Issue of 360 Magazine

Volume 19 of 360 Magazine is now available at Magzter and Blurb!

Known as the Flying Squirrel issue, it features Jasmine Villegas, Joey Kramer, Sam Smith, Ne-Yo, G-Eazy, Tokio Hotel, Cynthia Rowley, Jeremy Bringardner, Atman, Gustavo Schmidt, Chris Roberts-Antieau, and much more.

Jasmine Villegas discusses how her life changed at age eleven after performing the national anthem for the Los Angeles Clippers, being the opening artist for Justin Bieber on his 2010 My World Tour, and how being the victim of domestic violence motivated her to make changes in her life and create the song, "Didn't Mean It."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jack and Maud–with Sinatra and You, Too

Despite rainstorms that have recently pounded California, we're still facing a statewide water shortage due to our historic drought spanning the last three years.

To highlight the continuing need to conserve water in California, my friend Barry Stone has started making short films, like this one with Jack and Maud.

Jack and Maud from barry stone on Vimeo.

If you have ideas for more water-conservation films or would like to lend your talents to the Water Movies project, please reach out to Barry here.

And be sure to follow the project on Facebook.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Things Just Happen, And Sometimes You Get A Little Lucky:" Interview with Richard Kramer

I was thrilled when Emmy and Peabody award-winning television writer, director and producer, Richard Kramer, recently introduced himself and sat down for an interview about his television career and debut novel, These Things Happen.

I started with:

You and I met on Twitter. When I initially read your profile, I thought we'd connected because we're both writers. But one of the first things you mentioned to me was your passion for vintage beefcake. That's obviously a passion I share with you and the fans of my vintage beefcake blog.

Maybe that’s because I am vintage beefcake. I grew up in New York, and I vividly remember the windows of the porn shops on 42nd Street, long before Disney came along. I remember the men in hats, smoking, the silences, sneaking in and getting kicked out because I was too young. You couldn’t show dick at the time, so everything was idealized, classical, pillars, posing straps. And of course this imprinted itself on my erotic consciousness in a way that the million-times more graphic porn of today can never equal. In vintage beefcake, there was mystery involved; you had to call on your imagination, write the story yourself. Just where did those crumbled pillars come from, anyway? On which mountaintop did that healthy male frolicking take place? What vanished civilization was this?

You wrote that the older gay male characters in your first novel, These Things Happen, enjoy vintage beefcake, while it's of little interest to the gay teenager in the story.

That might be because Theo (the kid you reference) can just go online and see anything he likes, all the time. My old guys (all of them younger than me, by the way) had to connive, be furtive, worry about being caught, sweat a little. The way it should be. Theo’s parents would probably help him write a punchy Grindr profile; God forbid they should seem to be disapproving or intolerant, even if they actually are—which is one of the book’s subjects. I wonder about straight kids and gay kids … if the availability of the most graphic sexual images takes away some of the thrill of discovering sex for yourself. I hope not.

You are an Emmy and Peabody award-winning television writer, director and producer. These Things Happen is your first novel. It is a coming-of-age tale about fifteen-year-old Wesley Bowman in New York City. After living much of his life with his mother and her husband, he moves in with his gay biological father and his life partner. What is it about this story that made you want to tell it as a novel?

I always wanted to write a novel, and was always afraid I couldn’t. I don’t know why. I started out writing fiction, and was in The New Yorker at 21, which might sound glamorous but made me self-conscious and held me back. Then, happily, I did write a novel. The material led me to the form; I wanted to be able to enter the consciousness of an assortment of characters, to be with them on a moment-to-moment basis, where they were experiencing what was happening both externally—which is what you can do in drama—and internally, which is what you can do in fiction. I played with the material in different forms, and in the end it seemed it might work best as a book. Particularly, as I got into the heads of two characters who are, I suppose, at least on the surface, hard to like. I’m talking about the mom and dad. Being with them, sitting with them, listening to them, I came to respect them, even love them. And I hope readers can do that, too. Without spoiling anything, the dad is, for me, the key character; he comes the longest distance. It might seem tiny, at first, but it’s immense for him, and it pays off (that is: I hope it pays off) in the book’s final moments. And I can say, without spoiling anything, that until I wrote those moments, I had no idea what would happen in them. There it was. I thought “So that’s who you are. I would never have guessed. Thank you for letting me see that.”

Each chapter of These Things Happen is told in first person by one of the characters. There's Wesley, of course. And his best friend, Theo, who comes out of the closet while giving a speech at school. And chapters by Wesley's mother and her current husband. And by Wesley's biological father, Kenny, and his life partner, George. As well as chapters by two other characters. Why did you chose to construct your novel this way?

Again, it wasn’t a conscious choice. I didn’t know I was doing it until I’d finished the first section, which is told from Wesley’s P.O.V., and began the next, which is told from George’s. When I first started to think about These Things Happen, I thought I’d write the whole thing from Wesley’s P.O.V.

I was wrong, but I didn’t know that until I came to the moment that ends the first chapter and I felt a kind of click, telling me it was okay to leave him at that point and to go check in with someone else. And that set the pattern for the rest of the book. I wrote until—the click, until the moment where I could leave one person and visit another.

As for the first person-ing, I think I used that as a safety net, because it’s what I knew. The whole long last section, though, is written in the third person. Again, that wasn’t a choice so much as an event, that I witnessed. Maybe I felt more confident at that point. Whatever the reason—I just followed it.

Which character's voice was the hardest for you to pinpoint?

None of them. They’re all me. I used to say on thirtysomething [for which he wrote, directed and produced] I was all the characters, including the house. I’m everyone in These Things Happen, and I only saw that when I was done. I reconnected with an old tenth-grade friend not long ago. I sent him the book, and he told me Wesley was exactly who I was at fifteen. That stunned me. How had I not seen that? Maybe it’s what made him fun to write, though.

Was there a character you most related to? One whose point of you most enjoyed inhabiting?

I loved writing all of them! By which I mean I loved being all of them. They all surprised me, they all knew themselves better than I did. Sometimes when I was writing this book, I felt more like a secretary to the characters than the novelist who was bringing them to life. A writer friend said to me that you don’t write the book; the book writes you. I felt that all the time with These Things Happen.

Two characters are gay bashed in your novel. This terrible event is of course a major turning point in the story. Without revealing spoilers to anyone who's not yet read your novel, what do you believe is the message of These Things Happen?

That’s changed, as I have. At this point in my life, I’d say—none of us can know ourselves, or others, completely. And every now and then, if we’re lucky, these things happen in our lives that show us something about ourselves we didn’t know, something with which we’re not comfortable, and would harshly judge in others. What do you do when one of those moments comes into your life? Do you hide from it? Do you fall apart? Do you acknowledge whatever it is you’ve seen as an integral part of who you are? Can you let yourself be loved for everything you are? I’ve written about that a lot over the years. I never know I’m doing it. But it seems to be a magnet for me.

I mentioned earlier you are a television writer, director and producer. In fact, you've worked on some of the most iconic, generation-defining shows of the last 30 or so years: thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, the American version of Queer As Folk, and Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (the 1993 PBS television adaption of Maupin's first book in the Tales of the City chronicles)—just to name a few.

And those are the ones I talk about! There were lots of duds and clinkers in there, as well. Lots of movies that didn’t get made, pilots that didn’t go to series. But that’s anyone’s career. I feel lucky to have worked on a couple of projects that impacted people’s lives. When the book was published, I worried that people would say, “Oh, he’s just some slick hack from TV,” but that didn’t happen. Wherever I went, people told me their favorite thirtysomething episode, or how sad they were when My So-Called Life got cancelled after its first season, or how important Tales of the City was to them. I don’t think a week has gone by in the twenty years since it was first on that someone hasn’t told me that it changed their life. I had an operation ten years ago, and when I was (briefly) in the ICU, I saw my male nurse had one of the Tales books in his bag. When I told him I’d worked on the show, he said to me: “Those books saved my life. Now let’s save yours.”

The first television show you wrote for was Family in 1978. How did you become a television writer and producer?

I started out, right out of college, writing for The New Yorker. I thought that was going to be my life, but it seems my life had ideas of its own, and laughed at the ones I had. I wrote a spec script for Family while I was working on a cruise ship as a singles host. I sent it in cold, didn’t hear anything, and forgot about it. A year later, I got a letter, because they had letters, then, telling me they wanted to buy it and bring me to California. So I went and, it seems from the available evidence, I stayed. One thing leads to another, some things don’t lead to anything. But enough things lead to other things so that, finally, you’re in your story, and you realize that nothing happens for a reason. Things just happen. Which is maybe what I should have called my book. Or, maybe, Things Just Happen, And Sometimes You Get A Little Lucky. I feel that way.

Richard Kramer (Photo: Beau Deshotel)
Have you always been out as a writer, director and producer in Hollywood?

I love this question. It’s caused me to look back and remember that it was the producers and executives who were twenty years older than me who made it comfortable for me to be out, and my peers who made it uncomfortable. Of course, you always collaborate a little with the discomfort of others, without realizing you’re doing it. That’s true to this day. How could I be more out? And yet it’s still not easy for me to jump in and say, “I’m gay, by the way.” I do it, of course, but I always feel a little worried, even a little ashamed, and then I’m ashamed of being ashamed. Some of which is woven into the book, most notably, in the character of the dad. Will I ever fully get over that? I doubt it. I don’t think that’s the goal. The goal is to see it; that’s how you start to get free. Note that I say start.

In the 1990's, I was blown away by My So-Called Life, which stars Claire Danes as a 15-year-old dealing with her life at home and at school. Why do you think the show has retained its popularity?

Well, she’s got a lot to do with it, of course. I remember the day she walked in for the audition. None of us even knew what to say. We were almost afraid to say yes to her; she was so far outside the range of the typical television teen girl. She hardly even seemed human. But she was magic, and she caused us to rethink the whole show, to respond to what we saw in her, to mirror her rawness, her authenticity, her elegance. She came with a ladder which we all had to climb. And Winnie Holzman’s script, of course, was perfect. If it hadn’t been so good, I don’t think we’d have drawn Claire. And the show would have been just another teen show. I have a theory that if you write it, they will come. Write it right, that is. I believe the right actor finds you. That was certainly the case with the thirtysomething cast. And the Tales of the City cast. I don’t think it was the case with the Once and Again cast, although there were wonderful people in that, of course. As for the show itself, and why people love it—again, I have to nod to Winnie Holzman, who, of course, went off to write Wicked, which was no accident; Stephen Schwartz was a huge My So-Called Life fan, and could tell that Winnie had a rare understanding of the inner lives of teenage girls, witches and otherwise. And she led the way for us. She set a very high bar. Also, we did nothing to make it seem of-the-moment. We didn’t have a Teen Advisor; we wrote ourselves. My So-Called Life as a Middle-Aged Jew; that’s what should have been the title of the show.

In addition to both these projects being centered around teenagers, what do My So-Called Life and your novel These Things Happen have in common?

They’re both about authenticity, I think. Angela Chase and Wesley Bowman both fiercely insist on it. They’d make a nice couple. I hope they meet at Brown.

I am a massive fan of female leads in television and film. I happily binge-watched the entire first season of Bitten the day I found it on Netflix. I love watching Claire Danes now in Homeland. I miss Buffy and Veronica Mars. There's a dearth of female-lead dramas and comedies on television and at the movies.

But that’s changing, right? I love Scandal. I don’t love Orange Is The New Black, but I think I get why people do.

I enjoyed the British and American versions of Queer As Folk, which centers around gay characters living in small towns next to major cities, where many gay characters typically appear in fiction.

What drew you to this television project?

The British version drew me. Period. There was something so muscular about Russell Davies’s story-telling. I’m not a fan of the American version. Maybe because I got fired from it!

As you know, I live in San Francisco. I was born here. I am deeply in love with almost all the characters in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City chronicles.

How did you end up working with Maupin on the television adaption?

It goes back to ten years, at least, before the show went on the air. When I first met Armistead, I think that only the first two books had been published, maybe the third. When we first worked on it, it was going to be a half-hour comedy. We called it Mary Tyler Moore For The 80’s. I wrote a script. And now, neither Armistead nor I have any memory of that stage of the experience! I ran into someone recently who told me she had been the producer of that early version. You could have fooled me!

What message would you like your audience to take away from These Things Happen and the TV shows you've worked on?

None. On the TV shows, we ran in the other direction if we saw a message heading our way. It’s the same with These Things Happen. You throw some characters together, you watch what they do, you see what they want, and how they do or don’t get it. [Film and television writer, director and producer] Ed Zwick used to say the only message he wanted the shows to impart was to keep your hands inside the bus. The message is made by the audience.

These Things Happen has been picked up by HBO and HARPO Films for development into a half-hour comedy TV series. Richard Kramer is currently writing the pilot.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

LOOKING's Season 2 Trailer

Looking, HBO's gay dramedy set in San Francisco, California, recently dropped this trailer for its second season.

Poor Patrick still seems adept, by his own indecision, at creating maelstroms around himself and his friends.

Next month, I look forward to attending the series' second season world premiere at the Castro Theatre.

Be sure to check back here for my review.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO! by Teddy Saunders

There's so much great material on Vimeo, I can get lost in there for days.

Today, it's cold and rainy in San Francisco, which means it's the perfect time to re-watch again Teddy Saunders' Oh, The Places You'll Go! shot at Burning Man 2011.

Oh, The Places You'll Go at Burning Man! from Teddy Saunders on Vimeo.

If ever you need a pick-me-up, I can't recommend enough this short film, which was produced, edited and directed by Teddy Saunders, directed by Parker Howell and directed by William Walsh.