I must admit to a weakness for Reality TV. Not the manipulated “real life” genre usually traced back to Big Brother, which was first broadcast in 1999 on Dutch television. Not the survivors, the amazing races, the housewives, or the shores that followed. The chink in my cultural armor is for programs where contestants battle to be crowned best singer or dancer, most creative cook or savvy apprentice. And I blame it on the immortal question, “Do YOU want to be Queen for a day?”
For many years I co-hosted a local Amsterdam LGBT radio show called Alien. We broadcast live for two hours every Sunday evening. On April 3rd 2005 we canned our usual extraterrestrial opening jingle. Without warning or explanation of any kind, we simply began with the entire Munchkinland sequence from the film soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz, including the two rousing choruses of Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead. The message was clear: Pope John-Paul II had died the day before.
Disrespectful? Yes. That was the point.
“I love that half of the people posting about the death of Margaret Thatcher are actually posting pictures of Meryl Streep,” wrote gay blogger and author Kergan Edwards-Stout on Facebook. At first I thought he might be joking, but on further reflection I fear not. Social media is full of such inaccuracies and one must admit that Meryl Streep, in her Oscar-winning turn as the Iron Lady, is more photogenic.
“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good…Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” – Bette Davis (1977)
The rainbow flags are out in Amsterdam today. No, we’re not celebrating Gay Pride early this year. It’s part of a citywide action to “welcome” Russian President Putin. The official reason for his visit is to celebrate 2013 Year of Friendship, marking 400 years of ties between the Netherlands and Russia. But as Putin dines with Queen Beatrix at the Maritime Museum on Monday April 8th, thousands of protestors are expected to gather outside to express strong disapproval of Russia’s proposed anti-gay legislation.
Back in January, the Russian State Duma voted 388-1 in support of a bill that will make “promotion of homosexuality” – particularly by providing information to minors – a punishable offence. More recently there are reports of plans to ban adoption of Russian children by foreign gay couples. The anti-propaganda law is already in force in St. Petersburg and has had a profound effect on the LGBT community there.
“Until the age of five, I was classified as an autistic child.” This revelation shocked my public speaking class in 1971. I chose autism as the subject for an “informational speech” assignment because I was also taking a psychology course called Exceptional Children. I’d just read a chapter on the little-known condition and found it fascinating. But a good speech requires more than an interesting topic. It needs an ending that packs a punch. Because I was majoring in drama, not journalism, I didn’t think twice about using some creative license. My startling “revelation” was a boldfaced lie.
Two things I didn’t anticipate. An informational speech is followed by time for questions. My classmates had plenty, most concerning what I remembered from back then. I improvised like crazy about a soft-spoken woman, repetitive behavior, and other false memories. At the end, my professor commented on how remarkable it was that I was now an extroverted theater student. I hoped my intense blushing would not give me away as I returned to my seat. Apparently not. I got an A.