In September 1986 I died of AIDS. That’s me – center in the photo – playing one last game of Scrabble. An hour later, handsome Tony in the white shirt died in the arms of Steve, who left the hospice soon after to spend his final days with his family. I passed quietly, offstage. Five nights a week, above a gay bar in Amsterdam.
Paris, 29 May 1913
Everything was beautiful at the ballet. Romantic melodies by Chopin, graceful sylphs shimmered in white, Russian dreamboat Nijinsky danced in the moonlight. The first act at the brand new Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was what everyone expected. But as the music of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) began the second part of the program, the audience twitched, twittered and turned hostile.
“One literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music,” said Gertrude Stein (who actually saw the second performance four days later.) Popular composer Puccini (also attending the second night) called the music cacophonous, “the work of a madman.” Suddenly everyone who was anyone in Paris wanted to see what kind of ballet had caused a riot in the theatre on its opening night.
“You wonder how these things begin…” muses El Gallo, the handsome narrator in The Fantasticks, the world’s longest-running musical. (The original off-Broadway production opened in 1960 and ran for 42 years, so Les Mis and Phantom don’t even come close!) It was based on Edmond Rostand’s burlesque romantic comedy Les Romansques, which opened at the Theatre Francais in 1894 on May 21st – how’s that for serendipity? “You wonder how these things begin…”
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?”
What a kerfuffle! A few days ago a story twittered through Blogville, most notably via HuffPost Gay Voices, about Philadelphia drag artist Martha Graham Cracker. She’d been invited by someone at a nearby New Jersey after-school program to delight the kids with stories by Dr. Seuss on his birthday, in celebration of Read Across America. But in a blink of the Grinch’s eye, the invitation was ever so rudely rescinded. Day-care officials deemed Miss Graham Cracker “inappropriate” to read for their children.