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February 2016

Charles Busch Pays Tribute to the Leading Ladies of Cabaret

Recently I attended a one-night-only performance by Charles Busch, which was part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series.  The show, titled "The Lady at the Mic", celebrated the repertoire of Julie Wilson, Elaine Stritch, Mary Cleere Haran and Polly Bergen (and Joan Rivers was thrown in for good measure). 


CharlesBusch.Glen Hanson drawing


First, the positives:

  • Charles Busch - I love his stories and his female persona.  He conveys warmth and graciousness, with little of the crassness or bitchiness that is so often part of the routine of men who perform in drag.
  • The Venue - This was my first time at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room (in the Time Warner Center).  Rather than there being a wall behind the stage, there's a huge window that looks out onto Central Park South and 59th St., which is a pretty spectacular view.




  • Tom Judson - Busch's accompanist of the past four years, Judson is talented and sexy - even more so after I looked him up on Google Images.  Wow, how did he escape my attention all these years (similar to the reaction I had last year about singer-songwriter Matt Alber)?




Now, the negatives:

  • Charles Busch - Singing is not Busch's strength, at least not tonight.  Perhaps he had a cold since his voice was a bit ragged and he couldn't hit the high notes.  Thankfully, probably well aware of his limitations, his set was interspersed with his witty repartee and Tom Judson's contributions, so his singing was tolerable.  Also, during some of the less inspired songs my mind would drift as I gazed out at the cityscape stretching out behind the stage.
  • The Venue - Although the physical space is aesthetically pleasing, the seats were squashed together.  The seats themselves were chair-stools, so your feet couldn't touch the ground (even those of us who are six feet tall), which became a bit uncomfortable after about 10 minutes.  Also, the seats weren't very wide.  I've been more comfortable flying coach.
  •  Tom Judson - After the photos I saw on Google Images, it was a disappointment that he wasn't shirtless.




Nonetheless, the positives outweighed the negatives, and, anyway, an evening spent with Charles Busch is an entertaining one, so I went home with a smile.

The Play "Straight" Explores an Issue With Seemingly Little Relevance Today

StraighttheplayI was somewhat puzzled watching the new play Straight (at the Acorn Theatre on 42nd St.)  As it unfolded I opened my Playbill to verify that it was taking place in the present day, and not 25 years earlier.  The reason for my puzzlement is because Ben, a closeted man in his 20s, is in a relationship with Emily, who wants more of a commitment, while at the same time being involved with Chris, his twink plaything.  The plot brought to mind Elaine Stritch's oft-quoted line from The Ladies Who Lunch, "Does anyone still wear a hat?", except I was thinking, "Is anyone still closeted?".  Midway through the play Ben somewhat jokingly tells Emily that he's gay, but I sensed that he wouldn't have minded if she took him seriously.  Alas, she doesn't and his double life continues. 


The only time that Ben says "I love you", it's to Chris as they were settling into bed after a heart-to-heart talk.  Ben didn't even say those words to Emily after (spoiler alert!) he proposed to her.  However, I don't believe Ben loved Chris - he lusted for him.  Of the three characters, Chris was probably the lucky one, even though he was going to get hurt either way.  I felt it was better he got his heart broken when he did because if Ben had embraced his gayness he probably wouldn't have stayed with Chris for very long because of all of the opportunities he'd have  meeting men, many more suited to him.




I didn't feel much sympathy for Ben - nor was he a very interesting character.  I did, however, empathize with Chris and Emily, who were likable characters and nicely played (and it was refreshing that Emily wasn't a shrew).  When the play came to an abrupt end, with a surprise ending, I didn't care that Ben's dilemma was going to deepen, pushing him further into the closet and most likely without the outlet Chris provided.  Furthermore, besides struggling with his same-sex attractions, Ben was also unhappy with his job.  Get this man to a therapist - pronto.


Ben's situation brought to mind a boyfriend I had when I was new to New York.  He had been married and had two children but then lived a gay life for five years before marrying again.  He told me that he felt more comfortable being with a woman because it made life easier.  But that was 30 years ago (and at least he got a good taste of gay life - his journey is a more interesting one than Ben's).  Today, with same-sex marriage and the presence of children in gay households becoming more common, the plight of being closeted seems from a time long, long ago.






A Warm Farewell to the Hearthrobs & Divas of "Downton Abbey"

MenofdowntonIt may be PBS, but even they know that beefcake is a key component among the mix of program elements (especially when asking for donations from viewers).  The hunks of Downton Abbey made the viewing experience just a bit sweeter, and the divas added a touch of spice.  And although most men of any social class would look great in formal wear, DA's heartthrob characters listed below still maintained their debonair good looks even in more casual attire - or no clothing at all. 




Matthew Crawley

Dark and swarthy is what I prefer, but even I was smitten by the charming and dashing Matthew.  And what a pity Dan Stevens, the actor who portrayed him, left for Broadway and Hollywood, because that decision proved fateful for his beloved character.


Tony Gillingham

Of course, if Matthew hadn't been killed off, the delectable Tony Gillingham wouldn't have been introduced (nor Charles Blake, see below).  But when he and Lady Mary spent the night together at the hotel in Liverpool, what was it about Tony's bedroom performance, or pillow talk, that made Mary decide that they wouldn't be a good fit?


In addition to being a footman, James saw himself as a bit of a gigilo.  He was also the object of Thomas' affections, which was revealed to all when Thomas made the moves on him, thanks to O'Brien's scheming .

 Thomas Barrow

Thomas became a bit thicker in the middle in the show's last few seasons - perhaps as homophobia took its toll?

Charles Blake

He professed his deep affection for Lady Mary at the same time as Tony Gillingham. He would have been a good partner for Lady Mary because his personality was similar to that of Matthew's. 


Mr. Drewe

Mr. Drewe, a farmer who never smiled (perhaps it was due to his wife obsessing over Marigold and ignoring her own children).  I was always hoping for a scene that found him with his shirt off, or at least unbuttoned, but it never happened.

Tom Branson

Tom was kind and smart, with the sweetest Irish brogue. Like Thomas, his sex appeal diminished somewhat as he put on a few pounds in the last two seasons (after this scene was shot).


Jack Ross

Ross was the American jazz singer who stole Lady Rose's heart.  Lady Mary kindly, but firmly, saw to it that he called off his engagement to Rose.

Kemal Pamuk

Ah, the dashing Mr. Pamuk from Turkey. Although he appeared in just one episode, his ill-fated ravishing of Lady Mary in her bedroom in the third episode of Season 1 will not soon be forgotten.


You may have noticed that Henry Talbot is not one of the hunks.  It's because he left me cold.  While I loved watching any scene between Lady Mary and Matthew, or her and Tony Gillingham or Charles Blake, I didn't feel any sparks between Mary and Henry - despite their professed passion for each other.





Yes, she was responsible for Cora's miscarriage and for urging Thomas to make a play for Jimmy that nearly got him fired, but truth be told, I was as upset by her departure (she went to India) as I was with Matthew's death.


Lady Mary

I liked Mary.  Despite her occasional imperious manner and utter contempt towards sister Edith, she consistently showed kindness and compassion to others, upstairs as well as downstairs. And she was always the epitome of style.


The Dowager's butler, Spratt was like a 7-year-old, always pouting and complaining openly to her.  For whatever reason the Dowager put up with him.


Thomas Barrow

A second appearance by Mr. Barrow!  (Matthew also had his diva moments).  He was always scheming and then feeling sorry for himself.


The Dowager Countess

The Dowager (Violet or Granny to family members) did not suffer fools gladly. She did, however, enjoy sparring with cousin Isobel.  Based on the kerfuffle over the town's hospital, it's likely she would not be a fan of Obamacare.



Like the Dowager, Carson was resistant to change. He was loyal to Robert and tender with Mary, but he could be a prick with most everyone else.

Lady Rosamund

She offered wise counsel to all of her nieces and knew how to get a rise out of her brother, Robert, and their mother, Violet.  The fact that she was unlucky in love might have been at the root of her occasional bitchiness. 



The 12 Nations With the Sexiest Men - One Man's Opinion

Sami.yusuf.iranian.singerThis post could easily have had a broader scope, e.g., a United Nations of sexy men, since every country has its head turners and cock-teasers - even places such as Iceland, Bolivia and Chad.  But the dozen countries listed below are those that were top-of-mind based on my preferences - and fantasies (one advantage of having your own blog!).  And the sex appeal of some is enhanced by exotic or masculine names - first names as well as surnames.  Please note that some of them may have been born in or are citizens of a country other than that of their heritage. 





Soccer star, Alireza Jhanbakhsh


Despite their fucked up worldview,  they sure are sexy devils (or, perhaps, "Great Satans" is more fitting).


Wrestler, Taleb Nematpour





Danny Pino, actor in shows such as "The Shield", "Cold Case" and "Law & Order: SVU"


Danell Leyva, gymnast on the 2010 US Olympic team


Now a young adult, Elian Gonzalez was a controversial figure in 1999-2000 when, as a 5-year-old, he washed ashore in Florida and became the subject of a tug-of-war between his US relatives and his father in Cuba. He returned to Cuba with his father after being taken by force from his relatives' home.




Actor Jean Dujardin, nominated for an Oscar in 2012 for the movie "The Artist".


Fashion designer, Olivier Rousteing


The Guenot brothers, Steve and Christophe, both medalists at the 2008 Olympics in Men's Greco-Roman wrestling. Christophe is six years older than Steve.





Soccer superstar, Hideo Tanaka


Actor, Ken Watanabe






Hugh Jackman


Chris Hemsworth


Matthew Mitcham won a gold medal in diving for Australia at the 2008 Olympics.




Actor Sendil Ramanurthy


Cricket star, Dhoni


Cute Sikh fellow


Czech Republic


Roman Serble, world-class decathalon athlete, won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics and a gold at the 2004 Olympics.


Vaclav Noid-Barta, Eurovision singing star


Milan Baros, soccer star (somewhat resembles Ben Affleck)





Actor, David Oyelowo. Portrayed Martin Luther King in the movie "Selma".


Actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Academy Award Best Actor nominee for "12 Years a Slave"


Nigerian media celebrity, Ebuka



Saudi Arabia


One of millions of crown princes in Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud stands out because, at the age of 33, he is the youngest Minister of Defense of any nation.


Badr Alzadine, Indian media celebrity


This fellow, Omar Borkan Al Gala, supposedly was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 2013 for being too sexy, and thus distracting to the nation's women (but it's probably the Saudi men who's hearts were going pitter-patter).




Arpad Miklos, former chemical engineer who became a gay porn superstar. Sadly, he committed suicide at the age of 45 in 2013.


Olympic swimmer, Daniel Gyurta


Attila Vajda, Olympic medalist in the sprint canoe category




Caua Reymond, a popular actor on Brazilian TV


Generic, fun-loving Brazilian man, dripping with sex


David Miranda, husband of American journalist Glenn Greenwald.  Like most romances between 'gringos' and Brazilians, it began as a pick-up at Ipanema beach, where poor Brazilian boys line up in hopes of meeting a "meal ticket".



Puerto Rico


Ricky Martin


Actor, Adam Rodriguez, has appeared in TV series ("CSI: Miami"), movies ("Magic Mike") and music videos.


Generic Puerto Rican hottie


Honorable Mention:  Argentina, Spain and Morocco


If you want to take a trip to heaven, do a Google Images search of Argentine soccer star, Ezequiel Lavezzi. Every photo is stunning.


Spanish tennis great, Rafael Nadal