Saturday, July 4, 2015

GQ:George Quaintance: Gentlemen's Queertopia

I’m pretty new to the George Quaintance camp compared to a lot of erotic art fans. In 2012 I saw the Quaintance retrospective book which Taschen released. What I saw in this lavishly packaged book looked a lot like romantic pulp fiction covers, i.e. sexy senoritas, seductive belly dancers, etc. The only difference is that George Quaintance’s paintings had not one woman in them, but perfectly sculpted men with hairless bodies and beautifully colored skin.

If "Brokeback Mountain" was a picture book, this would be it. George Quaintance creates a veritable gay cowboy paradise where every man has the perfect looks and body, rodeos are for tyin' and wranglin' boys, the sun always shines, and every mesa is the Garden of (sw)Eden. The book is pretty pricey so I settled for the 2012 calendar, which was better because the images were large and in charge.

The Taschen Gallery just opened an exhibition of Quaintance’s amazing paintings in a show called “The Flamboyant Life and Forbidden Art of George Quaintance”. This was a herculean task in itself because he only produced less than sixty paintings in his lifetime, and many were simply traded or sold to private collectors. More than a few paintings had a NOT FOR SALE caption written beneath them.

Many of the paintings shown depicted men of in cowboy settings bathing, swimming or horseback riding. They’re mostly depicted in various stages of undress. These western settings suggest a virtual queer Utopia where men are perpetually young and fit and don’t require female company.

The best bathing paintings were Rainbow Falls, Sunset, Havasu Creek, and Morning In The Desert. In these paintings the boys either seem to be taking a shower or frolicking in a waterfall stream.

There are also many paintings of men bonding with their horses, as seen in the paintings Stallion, Manolo, and Dashing. It’s fascinating that Quaintance created these works during the late Forties-early Fifties when western films were at their peak and the image of the cowboy was the All-American image of masculinity at the time.

According to the gallery’s biography on George Quaintance, he was at one point or another a “vaudeville dancer, coiffeur designer, window dresser, magazine cover artist, photographer and portraitist”.

The biography also points out that Quaintance only lived to be 55 years old and ironically produced only 55 paintings in all. The exhibition also featured a well-researched timeline on Quaintance’s life and work, which took up and entire wall at the gallery. It was pretty awe-inspiring.

Compared to Tom of Finland, I'd say Quaintance's subjects are feminine in comparison, almost feline in their sleekness. The macho aggressiveness in Tom's images are replaced by an angelic idyll. There's also a more romantic and less carnal theme running through these images. The most overtly sexual image in these pieces are two men lying down together, a far cry from Tom's elephantine erections. This is the romance of homosexuality up on canvas.

If I were asked why I responded immediately to George Quaintance and his art I would say that his use of color and light is some of the most impressive I’ve seen. I also think his depiction of homoeroticism has a surrealistic flavor more mysterious than most erotic art ever made. You want to meet these people and understand how they live. This is part and parcel of what makes for great art, and George Quaintance is deserving of your attention.

The Flamboyant Life and Forbidden Art of George Quaintance is on exhibit at the Taschen Gallery, 8070 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, through August 31, 2015.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Damn The Darkness

Last month I was in Las Vegas and visited the much heralded Kiss miniature golf course. Prior to going there I fantasized of being in a cool, fun miniature golf course filled with crazy rock & roll props and stuff. It was a little bit like that, but then again…

The KISS miniature golf course can be found at the end of a completely empty strip mall, and unlike many mini golf courses, is indoors. Inside the walls are all painted black with paintings of the band and other images (‘70s hookers) in either blacklight or fluorescent paint. The images are painted with a heavy hand by a man who was probably blind in both eyes.

There are some interesting statues, like a big Gene Simmons head (no pun intended) with an enormous protruding tongue you need to tee your golf ball into. There are lots of fake amplifiers and giant phallic guitars to putt your way through.

The music piped through the PA is largely composed of material spanning the band’s entire career, solo albums and non-makeup period, as well. When a Paul McCartney & Wings track played over the PA it was met like an unwelcome intruder, so yes, there’s some scattered vintage rock tunes programmed in addition to the KISS songbook. By the way, it’s very hard to play below par to “Beth”.

The golf course also had a rock & roll party lounge roped off from us slobs, a fully stocked bar, as well as a KISS souvenir shop. The people who worked there were pretty nice so I don’t want them to feel like I’m fucking with them, but nevertheless, it had a low budget ghetto vibe about it.

I suppose it could’ve been worse: imagine an Oasis or a Smiths golf course. Yeah, a KISS golf course suddenly sounds pretty good.

*********************

While I was standing in line at Amoeba Records yesterday the store played a video of Donny Darko, the Magna Carta to all Emo kids the world over, on the monitors. The film raised a multiple series of questions about mortality and other major life issues, but the grim attitude it shipped is what struck me the most.

Every cool person in the movie is pale skinned and glum and all the smiling, happy people came off looking like idiots. Well, fuck us happy people! I was also amused at the myopic view given towards Graham Greene’s story “The Destructors”. Donny interpreted the story of a bunch of street kids mindlessly destroying an old man’s carefully constructed house as “creativity through destruction”. There’s no reference made whatsoever to the story being written shortly after World War II, and that it’s more likely about the brutal bombing of London.

I remembered how ten years ago I threw all my black clothes away and began wearing more bright colored clothes. As ridiculous as it may sound, doing that was more subversive than wearing flat, empty black.

I also discarded that fey hipster negativity, my new mantra being “Damn The Darkness”. It’s too easy to embrace the dark and the grim. It’s not fatalistic; it’s passive acceptance of a grotesque, ugly, horrible world without creating an alternative. You don’t have to wear a stupid pink sweatshirt screaming “CHOOSE LIFE”, but you’re going to have to do more than just frown and say “Everything sucks”. Putting shit down all the time doesn’t make you cool.

Illustration by Yuki Ramaro

***********************

Several plateaus are reached when you work on a novel. The first one is obviously getting all that insanity down on paper and the third plateau is putting the final touches to your work. Right now I’m reaching the middle plateau, doing rewrites of all the things banged out for the first draft. Wow!

If you’re a serious writer you’ll know how great rewrites are. You get to read the whole novel back to yourself and keep all the good parts and fix all the shitty, jacked-up sentences and paragraphs, etc. etc. You also get to beef up all the parts that you kicked out so quickly you neglected to fill in with enough details.

The joy of rewrites is being able to step back and fix an already exciting project you’re working on. It’s not unlike Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film “The Mystery of Picasso” where the great master steps back, looks at a brilliant section of his painting, you’re thinking “That’s so brilliant”, and then he literally paints something else right over that section! Picasso’s approach can be applied to all artists. That’s rewriting for you: your novel might read really cool, but you can always make it even better.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

RIP Ornette Coleman

Innovation is no stranger to jazz, but fewer people made a radical difference in sound as Ornette Coleman did. Coleman created new approaches to music and the way we heard it in much the same way Picasso did. The road to innovation is a rocky one, guaranteed to upset the most-minded purists, and in Coleman’s case it turned violent on more than several occasions.

On the first Coleman album I heard he dispensed with the dominant piano in a quartet setting, letting the horns lead the band. And what horns they were! Ornette played a Grafton plastic alto saxophone, and his playing style was a mixture of hardcore fifties rhythm & blues and free jazz. If the stretched out jazz alienated you he would return to some bluesy swing on his horn, bringing it all back home.

But that album cover was punk rock personified via free jazz. An intense Ornette in a beat, threadbare sweater with unkempt hair blasting atonal skronk on a white plastic saxophone, as iconic an image in music as any I've ever seen, prompting me to pick up my Conn Mark IV tenor and howl along to the album. Yeah, that's something else! I wanted to be just like that awesome wild man on the album cover. It was all magick and musick, and as a teenager Ornette set me on fire.

I first heard about Ornette Coleman from interviews with Captain Beefheart, who wished all his fans “drank from the drinking pond as Ornette”. Robert Palmer, jazz critic for Rolling Stone Magazine also stated that Coleman was one of the leading innovators in jazz, no small credit given that in the early Seventies jazz was at its peak in creativity.

With that information in mind I sought out Science Fiction, Coleman’s first release for Columbia Records. The music was super-charged and intense, fueled by a driving rhythm section largely manned by Charlie Haden and Charles Blackwell. The trumpets, either played by Don Cherry or Bobby Bradford were strong and angry, and Dewey Redman’s tenor sax playing was from a whole different dimension. It was the jazz version of punk rock: fast and furious.

Of course, no one album by Ornette tells the whole story, there’s The Empty Foxhole with his then 6-year old son Denardo playing drums and Ornette occasionally playing violin and trumpet, too. There were more albums letting us know we were in for something new and unexpected: titles like Change of The Century, Tomorrow Is The Question, The Shape of Jazz To Come, Free Jazz, and many more.

Speaking of The Empty Foxhole, I just wanted to call attention to Denardo's great drumming on that track. With Ornette playing a dirgey trumpet, Denardo hits his snare conjuring up nightmarish images of a burnt-out soldier marching through a bombed out battlefield. I think the album was a great father & son experience. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with my father and I. The album irritated him like crazy and every time I put it on he'd start yelling at me. He also hated The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny by The Mothers of Invention but even that creeped me out. The Empty Foxhole was an apt soundtrack for many father & son arguments one summer.

The most startling change in a career of startling changes was the 1977 release Dancing In Your Head, an album which introduced his theory of harmolodics, which very simply put, is a system where every musician can play freely at the same time in a band while supporting the other musicians. The result was an album that sounded like the soul sister to Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica album.

Dancing In Your Head had such a profound influence on my friends and I that we added Theme From A Symphony to our band Arthur J. And The Goldcups' set. The pinnacle, however, was finding the promotional 45 RPM single of Theme From A Symphony on A&M/Horizon Records for only 10 cents. Both sides naturally had abridged versions of that bombastic masterpiece. I still treasure my copy of that behemoth single to this day.

I remember seeing Ornette playing with his harmolodic electric band at The Westwood Playhouse in 1982 and it was a pretty wild show. There were twin electric guitarists, bassists and drummers going at it non-stop with Ornette heading the charge. It was one of those jazz concerts you remember for a long time after.

Ornette passed away on June 11 at age 85, a life filled with sounds still seldomely heard, but still inspiring and influential to this day. I still look up to him as one of the biggest influences on my saxophone playing. I also consider his humble attitude and philosophy to be a big part of my musical education.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Psychotic Films of Elizabeth Taylor

The biggest obsession I’ve had this year is checking out every wacked out Elizabeth Taylor film ever made, and she never stopped delivering the goods. In fact she may go down in my personal history as the coolest actress of all time.

Say what you will about Liz Taylor as a sex symbol, movie star, etc, no actress of her stature took more risks and gambled more with their career than she did. The list of wild, risky movies she made like Reflections In A Golden Eye, Boom!, Secret Ceremony, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, to name a few are some of the most intense films ever made and she always stood up to the challenge and blew our minds in the process.

Listed below are a small handful of films starring the great Liz Taylor that you may want to add to your must-see list if you haven’t caught them yet:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols,1966): Taylor teams up with husband Richard Burton in Edward Albee’s play about an angry, unhappy married couple reduced to playing condescending mind games with the new professor (George Segal) and his wife (Sandy Dennis). Each game is more demeaning than the last one, and the energy level is so insanely high you won’t be able to stop watching.

Taylor really chews up the scenery harder than anyone else aboard, which is quite an astonishing feat. I remember people being shocked by the rough language (“Hump The Hostess”) and unglamorous look at the normally glamorous couple when this movie came out. It really rocked the film world at the time.

Reflections In A Golden Eye (John Huston, 1967): Liz plays a Southern belle Marine officer’s wife to Marlon Brando while carrying on an illicit affair with his buddy, Brian Keith. She mocks his impotency by marching around the house stark naked and emphasizing that her beloved horse “is a STALLION”. But is he impotent or just a closet homosexual?

Issues of homosexuality in various guises, whether it be from a fey Filipino houseboy or a G.I. Joe enlisted man riding around in the buff, make this film a bizarre piece of sexual surrealism that has to be seen to be believed.

Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968): Another play filmed with Richard Burton, this time by Tennessee Williams, it’s the story of agoraphobic millionairess Cissy Goforth who has trespassers and the local peasants shot. She lives in decadent splendor and each outfit worn is more Paco Rabanne – Pierre Cardin crazy with each histrionic scene in spite of her stifling allergies. Liz dictates her memoirs over a loudspeaker when she’s not screaming at the hired help.

Finally Dick barges onto her property as sculptor Chris Flanders, clothes in tatters from guard dogs that have attacked him. He’s outfitted in a samurai warrior’s outfit (complete with sword). Noel Coward, an unwelcome guest at Goforth’s home, tells her that Flanders has been nicknamed by friends as “The Angel of Death”. Liz does a lot of cool yelling in this one, but Burton displays enough charm to keep you watching him through the picture. I think Liz takes “Virginia Woolf” but Dick takes this one. P.S. This can be viewed FOR FREE on You Tube.

Secret Ceremony (Joseph Losey, 1968): Another creepy Losey film about a crazy girl played by Mia Farrow attaching herself to a middle-aged prostitute played by Liz. Mia’s just lost her mother, who bears a passing resemblance to Liz, and since Liz recently lost her daughter, who resembles Mia, they engage in some sick role-playing. Liz plays Mommy and Mia plays the daughter, completely cloistered in a stuffy English mansion. Everything’s perversely rosy until “Dad” (Robert Mitchum) shows up to tear up the Mother & Daughter nest.

Mia’s really amped up the nymph factor here (Woody must have seen this and got smitten), but Liz gives an amazing performance as a woman trying to sort out the sanity in an insane family arrangement. Everybody’s on their game here, and this would be great on a double bill with Robert Altman’s “Three Women”.

The Driver’s Seat (Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, 1974): Filmed right after Liz split with Dick for the last time, this might very well be the female equivalent to “Last Tango In Paris”. Based on Muriel Spark’s novel, it’s the story of a plain spinster named Lise (hmmmm….) who gives herself an outrageous makeover. Her hair flying around her head like some modern day Medusa and resplendent with loud, gaudy clothes, Liz once again screams at every woman in her path like a demoness. The men, however, are another story; they’re stared at with an insane predatory hunger that’s hysterical to watch. Later on in the movie there’s a pretty stark scene where Taylor’s masturbating in bed.

I think Liz is showing us she can get as tough as her colleague Marlon did in “Tango”. Lise travels to Italy to find a romantic lover who will kill her after she’s made steamy, passionate love. The guy she ends up with, though, is a whole other story. Legend has it this film was so shattering when screened at the Cannes Film Festival that at the end the audience fell silent, a reaction more extreme than booing or applause. Well done! P.S. This can also be viewed FOR FREE on You Tube.

There were other strange Liz films I never got around to seeing, like X,Y and Zee, and I won’t even mention that bomb she did with Warren Beatty (yes, he tried picking her up during the filming and fell flat on his face). But the bottom line is that few movie stars took as many risks as Elizabeth Taylor and still came out looking absolutely amazing. Watch and believe!

.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stalking For Sale

Email #1 – January 11, 2015

Thank you for purchasing the iPod Touch during out fabulous money saving New Year’s Sale. We hope you enjoy the iPod Touch with its many convenient features at our insanely low prices. If you could take a few minutes out of your time and complete the attached survey so we can find out how we did, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, and when purchasing your next music player, video or audio component remember you can get it less from ZapTronics!

Yours truly,

The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #2 – February 8, 2015

Whoops! Looks like somebody forgot to take care of a few minor chores, like walking the dog, washing the dishes, and leaving a survey about their favorite music & movies vendor, ZapTronics! But hey, we’re patient guys and we’ll let it slide this time. Just make sure to fill out our short, handy-dandy survey attached to this email and shoot it back to us as soon as possible. Don’t overdo the compliments, though, our stock girl Marcie blushes easily! Well, gotta get back to unboxing some new iPod product for our big President’s Day sale, the lowest sale on the net and only from ZapTronics!

Yours truly,

The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #3 – March 17, 2015

We miss you! Did we do something wrong? Earlier this year you bought one of our best iPods at our money-saving lowest prices on the internet. Weren’t you pleased with the great iPod Touch you purchased from us? If our product didn’t meet with your expectations please let us know with the consumer survey attached. Help us grow and improve our service to you! Just take a few minutes out of your time and fill it out, and remember, don’t miss our fabulous Easter sale, only at ZapTronics!!!!

Sincerely,

The Gang at ZapTronics

Email #4 – April 3, 2015

After several requests for consumer feedback you have failed to respond. Might we remind you that when you purchase a product you enter an unwritten contract with the vendor to leave them feedback. Failure to do so is a breach of said contract and legal action might be taken, IF we were bad guys, but we’re not. So please reply to our FINAL request for feedback. Your timely response is greatly appreciated. Don’t forget – we got you that nice iPod Touch at super-low prices you can only get at ZapTronics.

Best Regards,

The Management of ZapTronics

P.S. Even Dave Grohl leaves feedback.

Email #5 – April 11, 2015

Take our word for it: Our business depends on your feedback. Without positive feedback we have no reputation, and with no reputation we get less and less customers coming to our fabulous on-line store. Are you trying to put us out of business? Do you want us to file for bankruptcy? Is that what you want? All that was required of you was to leave feedback for that cheap, fucking iPod which you bought WITHOUT PURCHASING A FUCKING WARRANTY, you penny-grinding son of a bitch!!!!! In closing, let us remind you that we have your phone number on file. Fill out the attached feedback and remit as soon as possible or you’ll be hearing from us….A LOT SOONER THAN YOU THINK!

Regards,

The Management of ZapTronics

Email #6 – April 19, 2015

So, you want to play hardball, asshole? Let me remind you that we have our sources of consumer data and saw your name under the topic called “ZAPTRONICS SUCKS!” on Google. Rest assured the message board that published these libelous lies will be taken down within the next twenty-four hours, and we have carefully captured every name that posted on that message board (including YOURS) and will immediately take legal action against all of you for slander, as well as undue hardship, especially in the matter of a female stock clerk who suffered irreparable stress and anxiety, forcing her to leave work early, following the message board posts which were carefully printed and distributed around the warehouse and corporate office, too, you people, all of you are vandals, buying our precious stock and then throwing bricks and lobbing Molotov cocktails at the hard-working retail enterprise called ZapTronics. You and your thug internet cronies will have the devil to pay for your slanderous doings. Mark my words.

Regards,

The Management of ZapTronics

Los Angeles Times – June 1, 2015

Adam Walfish, CEO of failing internet electronics retailer ZapTronics was indicted on several counts of income tax evasion, embezzlement of company funds, sexual harassment of a female stock clerk, as well as attempted identity theft of over 200 credit card numbers held by past customers. He faces a maximum sentence of thirty years in federal state prison if found guilty. Mr. Walfish refused to comment on these charges for this article.